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The works consulted include the following : 

Hrotsvitkce Opera : Edited by Paul Winterfeld. 
Hrotsvitha Opera : Edited by H. L. Schurzfleisch. 
Hrotsvithce Opera : Edited by Conrad Celtes (Niirn- 

berg, 1 501). 
Patrologice Cursus Completus : J. P. Migne (vol. 137). 
Abraham : Translated into French by C. Cuzin, with 

critical preface. 
Thkatre de Roswitha : Charles Magnin. 
Origines du theatre Moderne : Charles Magnin. 
Antiquitates Ganderskeimensis : Leuckfeld. 
Six Medieval Women : Alice Kemp Welch. 

I am much indebted to Dame Laurentia McLachlan, 
O.S.B., Superioress of Stanbrook Abbey, and to the 
Reverend Paul Bonnet of Lyons University, for assistance 
in the work of translation. — Christopher St. John. 

Note. — These versions of Roswitha's plays may not 
be acted without permission of the translator. 



From the woodcut by Durer. 















Whatever may be thought of the precise merits of 
these six short dramas, now translated into English for 
the first time,* it will be conceded that a collection of 
plays bearing the date of the ioth century, authenticated 
as the work of a woman, and a nun, is a remarkable 
phenomenon, interesting to students of monasticism and 
of the drama alike. 

At one time, it is interesting to note, it was suggested 
that the author of these dramas was an Englishwoman. 
In fact, the English scholar, Laurence Humfrey, who 
first introduced them to notice in this country, 
endeavoured to prove that Roswitha was no other than 
St. Hilda of Northumbria. His theory cannot, of 
course, be maintained ; but the very anxiety shown to 
identify this talented poetess and dramatist as a native 
of this country is evidence of the high estimation in 
which her compositions were held in the 16th century, 

* Since this was written, ^an English translation of one 
of the plays, Abraham, has been issued by a private press. 


the time when Laurence Humfrey, an exile from 
England for his religion, learnt to know them in Germany. 
It is now an established fact that the plays are the work 
of a Benedictine nun of Gandersheim, in Saxony, and 
their merits certainly justify her biographer's exclama- 
tion : " Rara avis in Saxonia visa est." 

It used to be assumed that between the 6th and the 
1 2th century all dramatic representations ceased, but 
each of these centuries when patiendy searched has 
yielded some dramatic texts. The feudal period, 
reckoned the most barbarous, and Germania, set down 
then, as later in history, as the least civilized of countries, 
have produced the most considerable and least imperfect 
of these texts in the plays of Hrotsuitha, or Roswitha, 
a nun of the Order of St. Benedict, who spent her 
religious life in the Convent of Gandersheim. 

There is a marked difference between her plays and 
such dramas as The Mystery of the Wise and Foolish 
Virgins, which is little more than an amplification of 
the sequence of the liturgy. We find here an author 
familiar not only with the Scriptures, the works of the 
Fathers of the Church, of the agiographers, and of the 
Christian philosophers, but with Plautus, Terence, 
Horace, Virgil, and Ovid — an author who, on her own 
confession, took the theatre of Terence as her model. 

The Abbey of Gandersheim, where these plays were 
written, was founded about the year 850 by Ludolph, 
Duke of Saxony, at the request of his wife Oda, a 


Frankish princess. Although these were what men call 
" the dark ages," the darkness was comparative. The 
Saxon court at this time was enlightened, and the Abbeys 
of Saxony, notably that of Corbei, were centres of 
learning and civilization. Gandersheim was one of the 
" free abbeys," that is to say its Abbess held it direct 
from the King. Her rights of overlordship extended for 
many miles ; she had her own law courts, and sent her 
men-at-arms into the field. In fact, she enjoyed the 
usual privileges and undertook the usual responsibilities 
of a feudal baron, and as such had the right to a seat 
in the Imperial Diet. Coins are extant, struck by the 
Abbesses of Gandersheim, whose portraits they bear. 

During the ioth and nth centuries these Abbesses 
were drawn chiefly from the royal house of Saxony, 
which had been raised to the dignity of the Imperial 
throne of Germania. Leuckfeld, in his voluminous 
history of Gandersheim, quotes a contemporary chroni- 
cler who praises the royal nuns for keeping all luxury 
and state out of the life of the community, and for 
observing the Rule of St. Benedict strictly. " They 
were forbidden," says the chronicler, " to eat away from 
the common table at the appointed times, except in case 
of sickness. They slept together, and came together to 
celebrate the canonical hours. And they set to work 
together whenever work had to be done." The Abbess 
who ruled the community in Roswitha's time was 
Gerberg, or Gerberga, a niece of the Emperor Otho I. 


Gerberg was a good classical scholar, and Roswitha 
tells us, in one of the introductory prefaces with which, 
fortunately for posterity, her works are freely sprinkled, 
how much she owed to the tuition of this Abbess, 
" younger in years than I, but far older in learning." 

It is from such sentences as this that we are able to 
gain a little information about Roswitha's life. Her 
mention of certain historical events and personages 
proves that she was born after the year 912 and before 
the year 940 (the known date of Gerberg's birth). She 
seems to have entered the religious life at Gandersheim 
when she was about twenty-three years old. She tells 
us nothing about her antecedents, but as Gandersheim 
was an exclusive house we may assume that she was of 
gentle birth. What education or experience of the 
world she had had before she became a nun is a matter 
of guesswork. 

Roswitha wrote in Latin, the only language used in 
the 10th century in the West for literary composition. 
Conrad Celtes, the well-known humanist, discovered the 
manuscript, the writing of which cannot be earlier than 
the 9th, or later than the 10th century, in the library 
of the Benedictine monastery of St. Emmeran, Ratisbon, 
in the last days of the 15th century. In the year 1501 
it was printed. This first edition has an interesting 
frontispiece representing the nun poet and dramatist 
presenting her works to the Emperor Otho II, in the 
presence of her Abbess Gerberg, who wears the crown 


of a " Fiirstabtin." This and the other plates illustrat- 
ing incidents in the plays have been attributed to both 
Diirer and Cranach, but they are not signed. Another 
edition, that of Schurzfleisch, in nearly all respects a 
reprint of the first, was issued in 1707, augmented with 
biographical and philological notes. The text given in 
the Latin Patrology (Migne, Tomus 137) is taken 
from the Schurzfleisch edition. More valuable to the 
student is Magnin's edition. The French commentator 
collated the Celtes and Schurzfleisch texts with the 
original manuscript, which in 1803 had been moved 
from St. Emmeran to the Munich library, and found 
one or two readings preferable to those of Celtes. 
Magnin also restored some stage directions omitted by 
Celtes, one of which, in the eighth scene of Callimachus, 
affords, as the English translator notes, valuable evi- 
dence that the play was acted, or at least intended for ^ 

The original manuscript is divided into three parts. 
The first contains eight poems or metrical legends of 
the Saints in which reliable authorities are carefully 
followed, much skill being shown, however, in the 
arrangement of the material and in the handling of 
the " leonine hexameter." The second part consists of 
the six plays here given in English ; the third, of a long 
unfinished poem called " Panegyric of the Othos." Celtes 
changed the order, which is to be regretted, as it is 
obviously chronological. Roswitha's preface to Part III 


shows more confidence than the preface to the plays, and 
very much more than the diffident preface to the poems. 
One of these poems, " Passio Sancti Pelagii," once enjoyed 
a very high reputation, and is often quoted by Spanish 
and Portuguese agiographers. The Bollandists print it 
entire in the Acta Sanctorum. It has another interest in 
that Roswitha tells us that she obtained her facts from a 
witness of the saint's martyrdom. 

Although Roswitha claims Terence as her master in the 
art of play-writing, it cannot be said that she imitates him 
closely. When Paphnutius was acted in London in 19 14 
the dramatic critic of The Times was justified from one 
point of view in asserting that Roswitha's style is " not in 
the least Terentian." For one thing she is quite in- 
different to the " unities," and transports us from place 
to place with bewildering abruptness. Her relation to 
Terence, as she herself insists, is one of moral contrasts 
rather than of literary parallels. The " situation " in 
Terence's comedies almost invariably turns on the frailty 
of women ; in Roswitha's plays as invariably on their 
heroic adherence to chastity. Although considerable 
variety is shown in the treatment of each story, the motive 
is always the same — to glorify uncompromising fidelity to 
the vow of virginity. This nun dramatist deals coura- 
geously, but, it must be added, delicately, when it is 
remembered that she lived in an age when even the best 
educated were neither fastidious nor restrained in manners 
or conversation, with the temptations which her characters 


overcome. The preface to her plays shows that it was not 
without some qualms of conscience that she wrote of 
things " which should not even be named among us." 
But the purity of her intentions, which was obviously 
recognized by her religious superiors, should induce the 
most prudish reader to refrain from charges of im- 
propriety. With all their shortcomings, Roswitha's 
works have a claim to an eminent place in medieval 
literature, and do honour to her sex, to the age in which 
she lived, and to the vocation which she followed. 



This translation of the six plays of Roswitha (there are 
really seven, for the two parts of Gallicanus practically 
constitute two separate dramas) was begun in the year 
191 2 and completed in 1914. The lively interest pro- 
voked by the stage performance of one of the translations 
(that of the play Paphnutius) by the Pioneer Players in 
January 1914 led me to think that the publication of the 
whole theatre of Roswitha in English would be welcomed 
by all students of the drama. Unfortunately, the war 
delayed publication, and the manuscript was entirely 
destroyed by a fire at the publisher's premises in Dublin 
during the Irish insurrection of Easter 19 16. 

The work of collating the various Latin texts of 
Roswitha's plays and producing a translation which should 
preserve some of the naive simplicity of the original had 
been a difficult one, and to begin it all over again was a 
heart-breaking task. The consciousness that the interest 
in Roswitha provoked by the performance of Paphnutius 

* I have adopted this form of the name in preference 
to " Hrotsuitha," " Hrotswitha," or " Hrosvitha," as 
being more easily pronounced and more pleasant to the 
eye. The name is said to be derived from the old Saxon 
word " Hrodsuind " (strong voice), a derivation accepted 
by Roswitha herself in her preface to her plays, when 
she writes " ego, clamor validus Gandeishermensis," 
and approved by Grimm. 


had waned did not alleviate the heaviness of spirit in 
which the work of replacing the burned manuscript was 

Those readers who are unable or unwilling to compare 
the translations with the original should be warned that 
Roswitha's dialogue is characterized by a simplicity and 
conciseness hardly attainable in any tongue but Latin. 
The difficulty of finding equivalents for the terse phrases 
employed tempts the translator to " write them up." 
Although I have aimed at producing a readable transla- 
tion for lovers of the drama in all its forms rather than 
an exact paraphrase for scholars, I have tried to resist this 
temptation at the risk of making the dialogue seem at 
times almost ludicrously bald. Except in a few cases 
where the use of " thou " seemed dramatically fit, " tu " 
has been rendered by " you." Roswitha's style is col- 
loquial, and the constant employment of the singular 
pronoun would misrepresent its character. The Latin 
is not obsolete, and it would surely be a mistake to translate 
it into an obsolete vernacular. Although the author's 
syntax is decadent, and there is a tendency to make every 
sentence analytical, her use of words is classical, and her 
Latin in this respect superior to the scholastic Latin of the 
Middle Ages. The only principle observed in my transla- 
tion has been the general one laid down by Edward 
Fitzgerald : " The live dog is to be preferred to the dead 
lion — in translation at any rate," and if this has involved 
a loss of dignity, I hope there may be some compensating 


gain in ease and force.* In regard to the names of 
the characters in the plays, when there were well- 
known English equivalents such as " Hadrian " and 
" Constantine " I have not hesitated to use them, but 
when there were none I have given the Latin names. 
There is a good precedent for this inconsistency. We 
speak of " Rome " and " Venice," but we do not try to 
Anglicize Perugia or Assisi. 

The plays are all founded on well-known legends, 
which Roswitha follows very closely as regards the facts. 
But she shows great originality in her use of the facts 
and in her development of characters often merely 
indicated in the legends. Three of the plays, Gallicanus, 
Dulcitius, and Sapientia, deal with the conflict between 
infant Christianity and Paganism, martyrdoms under the 
Emperors Hadrian, Diocletian, and Julian the Apostate 
being the chief incidents. Gal/icanus, which comes first 
in the manuscript, shows considerable skill in dramatic 
construction. Incident follows rapidly on incident. The 
scene lies alternately in Rome and on the battlefield, yet 
the action is kept quite clear. The story is easily followed, 
although Roswitha, like all good dramatists, eschews 
narrative. Gallicanus, one of the Emperor Constantine's 
generals, claims the hand of the Emperor's daughter as a 
reward for undertaking a dangerous campaign against the 

* Believing that the representation of the plays is 
possible, even desirable, I have also aimed at making the 
dialogue speakable. 


Scythians. The Emperor knows that Constance has 
taken a solemn vow of chastity, but he dares not offend 
Gallicanus by a refusal, on account of the value of his 
military services. So he temporizes, and consults Con- 
stance, who shows great shrewdness in dealing with the 
situation. She sends her almoners, John and Paul, to 
accompany Gallicanus on the Scythian expedition, in the 
hope that they will convert him to Christianity before he 
returns to marry her. The stratagem succeeds. Galli- 
canus, saved from defeat at a critical moment in the 
battle by the intervention of a heavenly host, becomes a 
Christian, and on his return to Rome shows respect for 
Constance's resolution to remain in the virgin state, and 
renounces her. But he admits that the renunciation is 
bitter — Roswitha often shows such touches of sympathy 
with natural human desires — and we are made to feel 
that, although the dramatist was in no doubt that the life 
of chastity, poverty, and obedience is the highest life, she 
understood how hard it is for those who embrace it to 
believe that the yoke will be easy and the burden light. 
The second play, Dukitius, is poorly constructed and, 
as a whole, less interesting than any of the plays. Yet 
it has some features which repay close study. It is the 
only play of Roswitha's obviously designed to provoke - 
laughter, and if the level of the opening scenes had been 
maintained would be a very droll religious farce. Here 
we have the usual tale of martyrdom interspersed with 
incidents of buffoonery. The conventional cruel and 



bloody executioners are replaced by comic soldiers and 
a comic governor. Unfortunately, the farcical vein is 
suddenly abandoned, perhaps because Roswitha's Abbess 
thought such fooling undignified in a nun ! There must 
be some explanation of the sudden disappearance of the 
comic character of Dulcitius from the play. However, 
even as it stands Dulcitius is worth a great deal, since it 
affords the best proof we have that Roswitha's plays were 
written for representation. There is indirect proof in the 
fact that we know that plays were acted at Gandersheim, 
as at other monasteries, on great occasions, but here is 
direct evidence. All the fun of Dulcitius lies in the action. 
No dramatist who had not in mind the effect on specta- 
tors could have conceived the scene in which the foolish 
governor, black as a sweep from his amorous encounter 
with the kitchen pots and pans which he mistakes for 
young women, is chased away from the palace gates, 
asking the while if there is anything amiss with his fine 
and handsome appearance. Stage directions, or didas- 
calia, are very rarely found in old dramatic texts, but 
when Magnin compared Roswitha's original text * with 
the first printed edition he found several which had been 
omitted by Celtes. 

Callimachus, Abraham, and Papknutius precede 

* The manuscript is now in the Munich City Library. 
Recently another manuscript, containing four of the six 
dramas, is reported to have been discovered among the 
state archives of Cologne. {Times Berlin Correspondent, 
May 9, 1922.) 


Sapientia in the manuscript, but as the last belongs by 
reason of its subject to the same group as Gallicanus and 
Dulcitius, it is more convenient to discuss it next. It is 
the best constructed of the " martyrdom " plays, and is 
singled out for special praise by most of the Roswitha 
commentators. The final scene in which Sapientia, 
having buried the bodies of her martyred children out- 
side Rome, lifts up her soul in an ecstatic prayer for 
death is described by Magnin as " a ray of Sophocles 
shining through a Christian mind." Many, however, 
may find the repetition in the long-drawn-out " torture " 
scenes monotonous, and the impertinence of Sapientia's 
daughters to their imperial persecutor as trying as the 
real thing must have been. These slips of girls defy 
" law and order " in the person of the Emperor Hadrian 
much as in our own day youthful suffragettes used to 
defy British magistrates. Probably this is in accordance 
with truth. Roswitha was separated from the days of 
the first Christians by a shorter space of time than that 
which separates us from her, and she based her narrative 
poem about the martyrdom of Saint Pelagius on an 
account given her by an eye-witness. While modern 
authors (with the exception of Mr. Bernard Shaw, whose 
Christian martyrs in Androcles and the Lion bear a resem- 
blance to Roswitha's) love to dwell on the dignity of 
the early converts to Christianity, Roswitha conveys 
the impression that the dignity was mingled with 



In Callimackus, Abraham, and Papknutius, Roswitha 
sets out to describe the war between the flesh and the 
spirit, and the long penance which must be done by those 
who have allowed the flesh to triumph. It is not enough 
for them to be converted and to realise their crime against 
the infinite beauty and goodness of God. They are 
called on to take practical measures to cleanse themselves. 
Callimackus is the first of these plays, and by no means 
the best, although it timidly sounds a note of passion, 
rare, if it exists at all, in medieval literature. Some 
commentators have laboured to establish a resemblance 
between Callimackus and Romeo and Juliet, and there 
are curious parallels. In both you see a sepulchre, a 
woman's open grave, and the shroud lifted by the desper- 
ate hand of a lover. In both two men come to this 
tragic scene, bowed down by grief, yet able to control it 
— in Romeo and Juliet, Capulet and Friar Lawrence, in 
Callimackus, the husband of the dead woman and the 
Apostle John. It would be idle to strain the parallels 
too far. They might not strike the attention at all if 
Callimackus did not possess a touch of the spirit of Romeo 
and Juliet. It is this which makes the play seem to 
belong to a later period than the others, and gives it a 
different character. The passionate language employed, 
the romance of the story, the colour of the earlier scenes 
are extraordinary when we remember that the play was 
written in the ioth century. Haltingly, and apparently 
without any conscious intention, Roswitha describes the 


kind of love of which Terence her model knew nothing 
— that feverish desire absorbing the senses and the soul, 
which leads to sin or madness or self-slaughter. As if 
frightened by her own daring (or did the Abbess intervene, 
as we guess she intervened in Dulcitius !), Roswitha spoils 
the play as a play by a lengthy and tedious final scene 
in which St. John appears to more advantage as a theo- 
logian than as a man. 

Abraham and Paphnutius show Roswitha at her best as 
a dramatist. In both plays the scenes are well knit, the 
characterization deft and sure, and the dialogue admirably 
expressive. The opening scenes of Abraham reveal that 
power to suggest character and situation without wordy 
explanations which is essential in drama. We know at 
once, although we are not told, that Mary, mere child as 
she is, is not made of stern stuff, and that her vocation 
is doubtful. Her replies to the two holy hermits are all 
that they should be superficially, but through them pene- 
trates a materialism antagonistic to their mystical exalta- 
tion. Equally rich in the quality of suggestion is the 
scene in the house of ill-fame which Abraham visits to 
rescue his niece from her evil life. She does not recog- 
nize him at first, but melancholy seizes her at the supper 
which it is her duty to enliven by her gaiety. There is 
the beauty which never ages and appeals to all nations 
in all times in the following scene, when the hermit, 
throwing off his worldly disguise, shows his hair grown 
white through vigils and fasts, and his tonsure, the badge 


of his thorn-crowned Master, and in words more com- 
passionate than upbraiding moves his lost child to 
contrition. It is indeed amazing that so true and touch- 
ing a scene, dealing with a subject which has led later 
dramatists into false sentiment, coarseness, or mere preach- 
ing, should have been written nearly a thousand years 
ago by an obscure nun in a convent in Lower Saxony. 

Perhaps nothing in Paphnutius is on quite the same 
level of achievement, but a play is not made by a single 
scene, and Paphnutius as a whole is better than Abraham 
as a whole. Few will question that it is Roswitha's 
masterpiece. It is very creditable to her that, although 
the stones of the two plays are similar, she should have 
shown such variety in the treatment of them. When 
we compare them we find hardly any repetition. It is 
interesting to notice that it is not Mary, brought up to 
the religious life from which she lapses and to which 
she turns again, who becomes a saint, but Thais, whose 
life from childhood has been spent in " dangerous 
delights." There is a spice of irony in the fact that the 
penitence of Thais, who had not had Mary's opportuni- 
ties, is represented by the dramatist as being on a much 
higher spiritual plane. With true insight Roswitha makes 
Paphnutius treat his penitent with far more severity 
than the hermit Abraham treats Mary. Yet the angelic 
love of Paphnutius for Thais, thanks to the dramatist's 
power of suggestion, penetrates through his austerity, 
although he never manifests it until the moment when he 
is assured through the vision of Paul, St. Anthony's 


disciple, that the repentance of the sinner has caused 
that joy in heaven which exceeds all the joy that can 
be given by the righteous. Paphnutius alone among 
Roswitha's plays has stood the test of stage representa-/^) 
tion in modern times,* and come through it triumphantly, 
although the miraculous swiftness of Thais's conversion 
was considered most " unnatural " by the critics who 
witnessed the performance. 

Roswitha, it must be remembered, believed in miracles. 
The average Englishman is sceptical. As Mr. Chesterton 
has pointed out, he will not swear to the possibility of a 
thing he has not seen, although he is quite ready to swear 
to the impossibility of a thing he has seen. In the fore- 
word which Mr. Chesterton wrote for the programme 
of the first performance of Paphnutius he compared 
Roswitha's treatment of the story of Thais's conversion 
with Anatole France's in his well-known novel " Thais." 
" This very strong and moving play {Paphnutius) was 
written by a person about as different from the author of 
' Thais ' as could be capable of wearing the human form, 
a devout woman, vowed to a restricted life, and writing 
in the light of a Latin that was gradually going out like a 
shortening candle. ... It is inevitable that such darkness 
should breed dangerous and even savage things, and that 

* Since this was written Callimachus (translation by 
Arthur Waley) has been produced by the Art Theatre. 
Paphnutius, in my translation, was produced by Miss 
Edith Craig for the Pioneer Players at the Savoy Theatre 
on June 4, 1914, Miss Ellen Terry appearing in the 
part of the Abbess. 


even religion should become almost as fierce as its enemies. 
. . . This nun of the Dark Ages wrote without any of 
that modern comfort and culture which ought, at the very 
least, to make men kind. When M. Anatole France 
was the author of ' Silvestre Bonnard ' it did make him 
kind. But about Paphnutius and Thais, the harsh 
ascetic of the hardest times of the ioth century is far 
kinder than he. In the ' Thais ' of the great French 
romancer the whole point is that Thais repents but that 
Paphnutius relapses. The nun saves both souls. Anatole 
France loses one of them. That is modern universalism." 
I hope that the publication of these plays in the English 
language will confirm Roswitha's right to a high place 
in medieval literature, and a place also among the few 
writers of plays which have more than a transitory interest. 
Perhaps a certain predilection for medieval art is necessary 
before we can love her wholeheartedly. I do not 
imagine that those who see no beauty in the primitive 
art of Cimabue, Giotto, Sana di Pietro, or Lorenzetti 
will admire the work of a primitive dramatist. But 
others who find sincere simplicity, as opposed to affected 
simplicity, a charm in itself, will take Roswitha to their 
hearts and will have no difficulty in recognizing her 
merits. In addition to the six plays I have translated 
the five prefaces printed in Roswitha's complete works, 
in the hope that the " strong voice of Gandersheim," 
speaking directly to the reader, may win a fresh interest 
for the plays, and give some idea of the character and 
attainments of the remarkable woman who wrote them. 





. xxvi 


•  • • 




• 33 



• 49 



• 69 


> • • • 

• 93 



• 131 




There are many Catholics, and we cannot entirely acquit 
ourselves of the charge, who, attracted by the polished 
elegance of the style of pagan writers, prefer their works 
to the holy scriptures. There are others who, although 
they are deeply attached to the sacred writings and have 
no liking for most pagan productions, make an exception 
in favour of the works of Terence, and, fascinated by 
the charm of the manner, risk being corrupted by the 
wickedness of the matter. Wherefore I, the strong 
voice of Gandersheim, have not hesitated to imitate in 
my writings a poet whose works are so widely read, my 
object being to glorify, within the limits of my poor 
talent, the laudable chastity of Christian virgins in that 
self-same form of composition which has been used to 
describe the shameless acts of licentious women. One 


thing has all the same embarrassed me and often brought 
a blush to my cheek. It is that I have been compelled 
through the nature of this work to apply my mind and 
my pen to depicting the dreadful frenzy of those possessed 
by unlawful love, and the insidious sweetness of passion 
— things which should not even be named among us. 
Yet if from modesty I had refrained from treating these 
subjects I should not have been able to attain my object — 
to glorify the innocent to the best of my ability. For 
the more seductive the blandishments of lovers the more 
wonderful the divine succour and the greater the merit 
of those who resist, especially when it is fragile woman 
who is victorious and strong man who is routed with 

I have no doubt that many will say that my poor work 
is much inferior to that of the author whom I have taken 
as my model, that it is on a much humbler scale, and 
indeed altogether different. 

Well, I do not deny this. None can justly accuse me 
of wishing to place myself on a level with those who by 
the sublimity of their genius have so far outstripped me. 
No, I am not so arrogant as to compare myself even with 
the least among the scholars of the ancient world. I 
strive only, although my power is not equal to my desire, 
to use what talent I have for the glory of Him Who gave 
it me. Nor is my self-love so great that I would, to 
avoid criticism, abstain from proclaiming wherever 
possible the virtue of Christ working in His saints. If 


this pious devotion gives satisfaction I shall rejoice ; it 
it does not, either on account of my own worthlessness 
or of the faults of my unpolished style, I shall still be glad 
that I made the effort. 

In the humbler works of my salad days I gathered up 
my poor researches in heroic strophes, but here I have 
sifted them into a series of dramatic scenes and avoided 
through omission the pernicious voluptuousness of pagan 


To you, learned and virtuous men, who do not envy 
the success of others, but on the contrary rejoice in it as 
becomes the truly great, Hrotswitha, poor humble sinner, 
sends wishes for your health in this life and your joy in 

I cannot praise you enough for your humility, or pay 
an adequate tribute to your kindness and affection. To 
think that you, who have been nurtured in the most pro- 
found philosophical studies and have attained knowledge 
in perfection, should have deigned to approve the humble 
work of an obscure woman ! You have, however, not 
praised me but the Giver of the grace which works in me, 
by sending me your paternal congratulations and admitting 
that I possess some little knowledge of those arts the 
subtleties of which exceed the grasp of my woman's 


mind. Until I showed my work to you I had not dared 
to let anyone see it except my intimate companions. 
I came near abandoning this form of writing altogether, 
for if there were few to whom I could submit my com- 
positions at all there were fewer still who could point 
out what needed correction and encourage me to go on. 
But now, reassured by your verdict (is it not said that 
the testimony of three witnesses is " equivalent to the 
truth " ?), I feel that I have enough confidence to apply 
myself to writing, if God grants me the power, and that 
I need not fear the criticism of the learned whoever they 
may be. Still, I am torn by conflicting feelings. I 
rejoice from the depths of my soul that the God through 
Whose grace alone I am what I am should be praised 
in me, but I am afraid of being thought greater than 
I am. I know that it is as wrong to deny a divine gift 
as to pretend falsely that we have received it. So I will 
not deny that through the grace of the Creator I have 
acquired some knowledge of the arts. He has given me 
the ability to learn — I am a teachable creature — yet of 
myself I should know nothing. He has given me a 
perspicacious mind, but one that lies fallow and idle 
when it is not cultivated. That my natural gifts might 
not be made void by negligence I have been at pains, 
whenever I have been able to pick up some threads and 
scraps torn from the old mande of philosophy, to weave 
them into the stuff of my own book, in the hope that 
my lowly ignorant effort may gain more acceptance 


through the introduction of something of a nobler 
strain, and that the Creator of genius may be the more 
honoured since it is generally believed that a woman's 
intelligence is slower. Such has been my motive in 
writing, the sole reason for the sweat and fatigue which 
my labours have cost me. At least I do not pretend to 
have knowledge where I am ignorant. On the contrary, 
my best claim to indulgence is that I know how much 
I do not know. 

Impelled by your kindly interest and your express 
wish I come, bowing low like a reed, to submit this 
little work to your judgment. I wrote it indeed with 
that idea in my mind, although doubt as to its merits 
has made me withhold it until now. I hope you will 
revise it with the same careful attention that you would 
give to a work of your own, and that when you have 
succeeded in bringing it up to the proper standard you 
will return it to me, that I may learn what are its worst 


(The Life Story of the Blessed Virgin, The Fall and 
Conversion of Theophilus, The Martyrdom of Saint 
Agnes, Poems concerning the First Cenobites at 
Gandersheim, The Acts of Oiho I, etc., etc.) 

I offer this little book, which has not much to recom- 
mend it in the way of beauty, although it has been com- 
piled with a good deal of care, for the criticism of all 
those learned people who do not take pleasure in a 
writer's faults but are anxious to amend them. I am well 
aware that in my first works I made many mistakes not 
only in prosody but in literary composition, and there 
must be much to criticise in this book. By acknowledging 
my shortcomings beforehand I hope I am entitled to 
ready indulgence as well as to careful correction of my 
mistakes. To the objection that may be raised that 
I have borrowed parts of this work from authorities 
which some condemn as apocryphal, I would answer 
that I have erred through ignorance, not through pre- 
sumption. When I started, timidly enough, on the 


work of composition I did not know that the authenticity 
of my material had been questioned. On discovering 
this to be the case I decided not to discard it, because it 
often happens that what is reputed false turns out to be 
true. In these circumstances I shall need as much 
assistance in defending this little work as in improving 
it. It must be remembered that when I began it I was 
far from possessing the necessary qualifications, being 
young both in years and learning. Up to the present 
I have not submitted the work to any experts much 
as I needed their advice, for fear that the roughness of 
the style would make them discourage me to such an 
extent that I might give up writing altogether. Un- 
known to all round me, I have toiled in secret, often 
destroying what seemed to me to be ill written, and 
rewriting it. I have tried to the best of my ability to 
improvise on phrases collected from sacred writings in 
the precincts of our convent at Gandersheim. I was 
trained first by our most learned and gentle novice- 
mistress Rikkarda and others. Later, I owed much to 
the kind favour and encouragement of a royal personage, 
Gerberga, under whose abbatial rule I am now living. 
She, though younger in years than I, was, as might be 
expected of the niece of an Emperor, far older in 
learning, and she had the kindness to make me familiar 
with the works of some of those authors in whose writings 
she had been instructed by learned men. Although 
prosody may seem a hard and difficult art for a woman to 

PREFACES xxxiii 

master, I, without any assistance but that given by the 
merciful grace of Heaven (in which I have trusted, rather 
than in my own strength), have attempted in this book to 
sing in dactyls. I was eager that the talent given me by 
Heaven should not grow rusty from neglect, and remain 
silent in my heart from apathy, but under the hammer of 
assiduous devotion should sound a chord of divine praise. 
If 1 have achieved nothing else, this alone should make my 
work of some value. Wherefore, reader, whosoever you 
may be, I beg you, if you think it right before God, to 
help me by not sparing censure of such pages as are poor 
and lack the skill of a master. If, on the contrary, 
you find some that stand the test of criticism, give the 
credit to God, ascribing all defects to my shortcomings. 
Do this in an indulgent rather than in a censorious 
spirit, for the critic forfeits the right to be severe when 
the writer acknowledges defects with humility. 


Illustrious Abbess, venerated no less for uprightness 
and honesty than for the high distinction of a royal and 
noble race, Roswitha of Gandersheim, the last of the 
least of those fighting under your ladyship's rule, desires 
to give you all that a servant owes her mistress. 

O my Lady, bright with the varied jewels of spiritual 
wisdom, your maternal kindness will not let you hesitate 
to read what, as you know, was written at your command ! 
It was you who gave me the task of chronicling in verse 
the deeds of the Emperor, and you know that it was 
impossible to collect them together from hearsay. You 
can imagine the difficulties which my ignorance put in 
my way while I was toiling over this work. There were 
things of which I could not find any written record, nor 
could I elicit information by word of mouth which 
seemed sufficiently reliable. I was like a person in a 
strange land wandering without a guide through a forest 
where the path is concealed by dense snow. In vain he 
tries to follow the directions of those who have shown 
the way. He wanders from the path, now by chance 
strikes it again, until at last, penetrating the thickness of 
the wood, he reaches a place where he may take a long- 
desired rest, and sitting down there, does not proceed 


further until someone overtakes him, or he discovers the 
footprints of one who has gone before. Even so have I, 
obeying the command to undertake a complete chronicle 
of great deeds, gone on my way, trembling, hesitating, 
and vacillating, so great was the difficulty of finding a 
path in the forest of these royal achievements. 

And now, worn out by the journey, I am holding my 
peace and resting in a suitable place. I do not propose 
to go further without better guidance. If I could be 
inspired by the eloquent words of learned folk (either 
already set down or to be set down in the future) I might 
perhaps find a means of glozing my uncouth workman- 
ship. At present I am defenceless at every point, because 
I am not supported by any authority. I also fear I shall 
be accused of temerity in presuming to describe in my 
humble uncultured way matters which ought to be set 
forth with all the ceremony of great learning. Yet if 
my work is examined by those who know how to weigh 
things fairly, I shall be more easily pardoned on account 
of my sex and my inferior knowledge, especially as I did 
not undertake it of my own will but at your command. 
Why should I fear the judgment of others, since if there 
are mistakes I should fall only under your censure, and 
why should I not escape reproof seeing that I was anxious 
to keep silence ? I should deserve blame if I sought to 
withhold my work. In any case I leave the decision to 
you and your friend, Archbishop William, to whom you 
have thought fit to show these unpolished lines. 


I found all the material I have used in this book in 
various ancient works by authors of reputation, with the 
exception of the story of the martyrdom of St. Pelagius, 
which has been told here in verse. The details of this 
were supplied to me by an inhabitant of the town where 
the Saint was put to death. This truthful stranger 
assured me that he had not only seen Pelagius, whom he 
described as the most beautiful of men, face to face, but 
had been a witness of his end. If anything has crept 
into my other compositions, the accuracy of which can 
be challenged, it is not my fault, unless it be a fault to 
have reproduced the statements of unreliable authorities. 



The conversion of GaUicanus, Commander-in-Chief. 
On the eve of his departure for a campaign against the 
Scythians, GaUicanus is betrothed to the Emperor 
Constantine's daughter, Constance, a consecrated virgin. 

When threatened with defeat in battle, GaUicanus is 
converted by John and Paul, Grand Almoners to 
Constance. He is immediately baptized and takes a 
vow of celibacy. 

Later he is exiled by order of Julian the Apostate, and 
receives the crown of martyrdom. John and Paul are 
put to death by the same prince and buried secretly in 
their own house. Not long after, the son of their 
executioner becomes possessed by a devil. He is cured 
after confessing the crime committed by his father. He 
bears witness to the merits of the martyrs, and is baptized, 
together with his father. 



CONSTANCE {Daughter of Constantine). 

ARTEMIA) , n . .„ ... 
_,_, _ :- {Daughters of Ga/ttcanus). 


and ^{Grand Almoners to Constance). 

BRADAN {King of the Scythians). 
HELENA {Mother of Constantine). 


JULIAN {The Apostate). 










CONST ANTINE. Gallicanus, this tries my patience. 
You have delayed the offensive against the Scythians too 
long. The only nation which boldly resists our power and 
refuses to make peace with Rome ! You know well 
enough that you were chosen because of your energy in 
your country's service. 

GALLICANUS. Most noble Constantine, I have 
served you hand and foot, ungrudgingly, devotedly, and 
have always striven to repay your trust in me with deeds. 
I have never shirked any task. 

CONSTANTINE. Is there any need to remind me ? 
As if your great services were not always in mind ! I 
spoke, not to reproach you, but to urge you to act quickly. 

GALLICANUS. I will set out at once. 

CONSTANTINE. I am rejoiced to hear it. 

GALLICANUS. I am ready to obey your orders if 
it costs me my life. 

CONSTANTINE. Your zeal pleases me. I appreciate 
your devotion. 


GALLICANUS. As both are immense should they 
not be rewarded on the same scale ? 

CONSTANTINE. That is only fair. 

GALLICANUS. It is easier for a man to undertake a 
difficult enterprise when he is sustained by the knowledge 
that his reward is sure. 

CONSTANTINE. Naturally. 

GALLICANUS. I beg you then to promise me now 
my prize for this dangerous undertaking. In hard and 
strenuous fighting, when it seems as if I must be defeated, 
the thought of this reward will give me new strength. 

CONSTANTINE. The reward deemed by the Senate 
the most glorious a man can desire has never been withheld 
from you, and never shall be. You enjoy the freedom of 
my court, and the highest honour among those who 
surround me. 

GALLICANUS. I know, but I am not thinking of 

CONSTANTINE. If you have other ambitions, you 
must tell me. 


CONSTANTINE. What are they ? 

GALLICANUS. Dare I tell you ? 

CONSTANTINE. Of course! 

GALLICANUS. You will be angry. 

CONSTANTINE. Not at all ! 

GALLICANUS. You are sure ? 

CONSTANTINE. Quite sure. 


GALLICANUS. We shall see. I say you will be 

CONST ANTINE. Your fears are groundless. Come! 
Speak ! 

GALLICANUS. Since you command me, I will. I 
love Constance. I love your daughter. 

CONST ANTINE. That is well. You do right to 
love the daughter of your sovereign. Your love honours 

GALLICANUS. You say this to cut me short. 


GALLICANUS. I wish to marry her. Will you give 
your consent ? 

CONSTANTINE. He asks no small thing, my lords. 
This is an honour of which none of you have ever dreamed. 

GALLICANUS. Alas ! I foresaw this. He scorns me. 
{To the Lords) Intercede for me, I implore you. 

THE LORDS. Most illustrious Emperor, we beg you 
to be generous. Remember his services, and do not turn a 
deaf ear to his request. 

CONSTANTINE. I have not done so, but it is my 
duty first to make sure that my daughter consents. 

THE LORDS. That is only reasonable. 

CONST ANTINE. I will go to her, and, if such is 
your wish, Gallicanus, I will lay the project before her. 

GALLICANUS. It is my wish. 



CONSTANCE. Our Lord the Emperor approaches. 
He looks strangely grave and sad. What can it mean ? 

CONST ANTINE. Constance, my child, come nearer. 
I wish to speak to you. 

CONSTANCE. I am here, my lord. Command 

CONSTANTINE. I am in great distress of mind. 
My heart is heavy. 

CONSTANCE. As you came in I saw that you were 
sad, and without knowing the reason I was troubled. 

CONSTANTINE. It is on your account. 

CONSTANCE. On my account ? 


CONSTANCE. You frighten me. What is it, my 
lord ? 

CONSTANTINE. The fear of grieving you ties my 

CONSTANCE. You will grieve me more by keeping 

CONSTANTINE. Gallicanus, my General, whose 
victories have won him the first place among the princes 
of my realm — Gallicanus, whose sword is necessary for 
the defence of the Empire — Gallicanus 

CONSTANCE. What of him ? 

CONSTANTINE. He wants to make you his wife. 



CONSTANCE. I would rather die. 
CONSTANTINE. I knew that would be your answer. 
CONSTANCE. It cannot surprise you, as it was with 
your consent and approval that I consecrated myself to 

CONSTANTINE. I have not forgotten. 
CONSTANCE. I will keep my vow inviolate. No- 
thing can ever force me to break it. 

CONSTANTINE. I know you are right, and the 
greater my difficulty. For if, as is my duty as your father, 
I permit you to be faithful to your vow, as a sovereign I 
shall suffer for it. Yet were I to oppose your resolution — 
which God forbid ! — I should deserve eternal punishment. 
CONSTANCE. If I despaired of divine help I should 
be more wretched than you. 

CONSTANTINE. That is true. 
CONSTANCE. But a heart which trusts in God's 
goodness is armed against sorrow. 

CONSTANTINE. You speak well, my Constance. 
CONSTANCE. My lord, if you will deign to listen to 
my advice, I can show you how to escape this double danger. 
CONSTANTINE. Oh, that you could ! 
CONSTANCE. You must pretend that you are will- 
ing to grant Gallicanus what he asks when the war has 
been won. Make him believe that I agree. Persuade 
him to leave with me during his absence at the war his 
two daughters, Attica and Anemia, as pledges of the bond 


of love which is to unite us. Tell him that in return I will 
send with him on his expedition my two Almoners, John 
and Paul. 

CONSTANTINE. And if he should return victorious ? 
What then ? 

CONSTANCE. We must pray the Father of us all 
that he will change his mind. 

CONSTANTINE. My daughter, my daughter! 
Your sweet words have softened the harshness of 
your father's grief! Henceforth I will not give way to 

CONSTANCE. There is no need. 

CONSTANTINE. I will return to Gallicanus and 
satisfy him with this promise. 

CONSTANCE. Go in peace, my lord. 


GALLICANUS. O princes, I die of impatience to 
learn what has come of this long conference between our 
august sovereign and his daughter. 

THE LORDS. He promised to plead your cause. 

GALLICANUS. Oh, that his arguments may prevail ! 

THE LORDS. Maybe they will. 

GALLICANUS. Peace ! Silence all of you ! The 
Emperor comes. His face is not anxious as when he left 
us, but serene and glad. 

THE LORDS. A good omen ! 


GALLICANUS. It is said that the face is the mirror 
of the soul. If this be true, the calm joy in his reflects a 
kindly mood. 

THE LORDS. We trust so. 


CONST ANTINE. Gallicanus ! 

GALLICANUS. What did he say ? 

THE LORDS. Forward, forward. He is asking for you 

GALLICANUS. Now the good gods help me ! 

CONSTANTINE. Gallicanus, set out for the war 
with an easy mind. On your return you shall receive the 
reward you covet. 

GALLICANUS. This is not a jest ? 

CONSTANTINE. How can you ask ? 

GALLICANUS. I should be happy indeed if I could 
know one thing. 

CONSTANTINE. What may that be ? 

GALLICANUS. Her answer. 

CONSTANTINE. My daughter's answer ? 

GALLICANUS. Yes. What did she say ? 

CONSTANTINE. It is unreasonable to expect a 
young maid to answer in so many words. Events will 
prove that she consents. 

GALLICANUS. If I could be assured of that, I 
should trouble little about the manner of her answer. 

CONSTANTINE. You want proof? 


GALLICANUS. I hunger for it. 

CONST ANTINE. Then listen. She has given orders 
that her Almoners, John and Paul, shall stay with you until 
the day of your nuptials. 

GALLICANUS. And her reason ? 

CONST ANTINE. That by constant intercourse with 
them you may learn to know how she lives — her habits 
and her tastes. 

GALLICANUS. An excellent plan, and one that 
pleases me beyond measure. 

CONST ANTINE. She would like you in return to 
allow your two young daughters to live with her for the 
same period. She thinks she can learn from them how to 
please you. 

GALLICANUS. Oh, joy, joy ! All things are falling 
out as I wished. 

CONSTANTINE. Send for your daughters without 

GALLICANUS. Are my soldiers still there ? Come, 
fellows, hasten ! Run to my daughters and bring them to 
their sovereign's presence. 


SOLDIERS. Most noble Constance, the illustrious 
daughters of Gallicanus are here. They are beautiful, wise 
and virtuous, and in every way worthy of your friendship. 

CONSTANCE. They are welcome. (They are Intro- 


duced zcitk ceremony?) * O Christ, lover of virginity and 
fount of chastity ! Thou Who through the intercession 
of Thy holy martyr Agnes hast preserved my body from 
stain and my mind from pagan errors ! Thou Who hast 
shown me as an example Thy Mother's virgin bed where 
Thou didst manifest Thyself true God ! Thou Who 
before time began wast born of God the Father, and in 
the fullness of time wast born again true man, of a 
mother's womb — I implore Thee, true Wisdom, 
co-eternal with the Father, the Creator, Upholder and 
Governor of the Universe, to grant my prayer ! May 
Gallicanus, who seeks to gain the love which I can give 
only to Thee, be turned from his unlawful purpose. 
Take his daughters to Thyself, and pour the sweetness 
of Thy love into their hearts that they may despise all 
carnal bonds, and be admitted to the blessed company 
of virgins who are consecrated to Thee ! 

ARTEMIA. Hail, most noble Constance ! Imperial 
highness, hail ! 

CONSTANCE. Greeting, my sisters, Artemia and 
Attica. Stand up, stand up ! No, do not kneel. Salute 
me rather with a loving kiss. 

ARTEMIA. We come joyfully to offer you our 
homage, lady. We are ready to serve you with our whole 
hearts, and we seek no reward but your love. 

* Celtes prints this as part of the text ; Magnin as a 
direction, on the ground that it is introducuntur, not intro- 
ducautur in the MS. 


CONSTANCE. We have one Lord Who is in heaven. 
He alone should be served like that. We owe Him a love 
and fidelity which must be shown not only with whole 
hearts but with whole bodies. That is if we would enter 
His kingdom with the virgin's palm. 

ARTEMIA. We do not question this. You will find 
us eager to obey you in all things, but never so eager as 
when you exhort us to confess our faith and keep our vow 
of purity. 

CONSTANCE. That is a good answer, and one 
worthy of a noble mind. I see that through divine grace 
you already have the faith. 

ARTEMIA. How could we poor idolators have any 
good thought if light had not been given us from above ? 

CONSTANCE. The strength of your faith makes me 
hope that Gallicanus too will believe some day. 

ARTEMIA. He has only to be taught. Then he must 

CONSTANCE. Send for John and Paul. 


JOHN. You sent for us, Highness. We are here. 

CONSTANCE. Go at once to Gallicanus and attach 
yourselves to his person. Instruct him little by little in 
the mysteries of our faith. Perhaps God means to make us 
the instruments of winning him to His service. 

PAUL. God give us success ! We shall do all we can. 



GALLICANUS. You are welcome, John — and you, 
Paul. I have awaited your coming with impatience. 

JOHN. As soon as we received our lady's commands 
we hastened at once to put ourselves at your service. 

GALLICANUS. Your offer to serve me gives me a 
pleasure that nothing else could give. 

PAUL. That is natural, for, as the saying goes, "The 
friends of our friends are our friends." 

GALLICANUS. A true saying. 

JOHN. The love our lady bears you assures us of your 

GALLICANUS. You can rely on it. Come, tribunes 
and centurions, assemble the troops. Soldiers in my com- 
mand, I present to you John and Paul, for whose arrival 
our departure has been delayed. 

TRIBUNES. Lead us on. (The tribunes gather round 
Gallicanus.) * 

GALLICANUS. We must first go to the Capitol, 
and visit the temples to propitiate the gods with the 
customary sacrifices. That is the way to obtain success 
for our arms. 

TRIBUNES. That is certain. 

JOHN. Let us withdraw for a time. 

PAUL. We cannot do otherwise. 

* Another " stage direction " omitted by Celtes. 



JOHN. The General is leaving the temple. Let us 
mount our horses and ride to meet him. 

PAUL. This moment. 

GALLICANUS. I noticed you were not with us. 
Where have you been ? 

JOHN. We were seeing to our baggage. We have 
sent it on ahead that we may ride with you unen- 

GALLICANUS. Well planned ! 


GALLICANUS. By Jupiter, tribunes, I see the 
legions of an immense army advancing ! The diversity 
of their arms is enough to make the stoutest heart tremble. 

TRIBUNES. By Hercules, the enemy ! 

GALLICANUS. Let us resist with courage, and show 
them we are men ! 

TRIBUNES. It is useless to attempt resistance to 
such a host. 

GALLICANUS. What, then, do you propose ? 

TRIBUNES. Surrender. 

GALLICANUS. Apollo forbid ! 

TRIBUNES. By Pollux, we must surrender ! See, 
we are surrounded on every side — we are being mown 
down — we perish ! 


GALLICANUS. Ye gods ! What will happen if the 
tribunes refuse to obey me, and surrender ? 

JOHN. Promise you will become a Christian, and you 
will conquer. 

GALLICANUS. I swear ! And I will keep my 

ONE OF THE ENEMY. Woe to us, King Bradan ! 
Fortune, who but now promised us victory, was mocking 
us. Our men are weakening, their strength is exhausted 
— they have lost heart and are giving up the struggle. 

BRADAN. I am uncertain what to do. A strange faint- 
heartedness has seized me also. There is but one course — 
we must surrender. 

THE ENEMY. There is nothing else to do. 

BRADAN. Gallicanus, do not destroy us ! Be merci- 
ful ! Spare our lives and do with us what you will. 

GALLICANUS. Have no fear. There is no need to 
tremble. Give me hostages, acknowledge yourselves 
tributaries of the Emperor, and you shall live happy 
under a Roman peace. 

BRADAN. You have only to name the number and 
rank of the hostages, and the tribute to be exacted. 

GALLICANUS. Soldiers, lay down arms. Slay no 
one, wound no one, but embrace as friends these men 
whom you had to fight as enemies of the Empire. 

JOHN. How much more powerful is one fervent 
prayer than all the pride of man ! 

GALLICANUS. That is true indeed. 


PAUL. What mighty succour God in His mercy 
sends to those who humbly trust in Him ! 

GALLICANUS. I have had good proof of it. 

JOHN. But the promise made when the storm was 
raging must be kept now it is calm. 

GALLICANUS. I agree. It is my wish to be baptized 
as soon as possible, and to devote the rest of my life to the 
service of God. 

PAUL. You are right. 


GALLICANUS. Look ! That vast crowd of citizens 
has gathered to see our entry into Rome ! See how they 
flock to acclaim us, bearing according to custom the 
symbols of victory ! 

JOHN. It is only natural. 

GALLICANUS. Yet the glorious victory was not 
won by my valour nor by the help of their gods. 

JOHN. No, assuredly ; the glory belongs to the one 
true God. 

GALLICANUS. That being so, we must pass the 
temples without going in. 

JOHN. A wise decision. 

GALLICANUS. And instead make a humble con- 
fession of faith in the Church of the Apostles. 

PAUL. O happy man ! And most happy thought ! 
In this you show yourself a true Christian. 



CONSTANTINE. I am greatly astonished, soldiers, 
that Gallicanus should be so long in presenting himself 
before his sovereign. 

SOLDIERS. The moment he arrived in Rome he 
went to the Church of Saint Peter, and, prostrating 
himself on the ground, gave thanks to the Almighty for 
giving him the victory. 

CONST ANTINE. Gallicanus? 

SOLDIERS. It is true. 

CONSTANTINE. Impossible ! 

SOLDIERS. Here he comes. You can ask him 


CONSTANTINE. Welcome, Gallicanus ! I have 
awaited your arrival with impatience. I long to hear from 
your own lips how the battle went and how it ended. 

GALLICANUS. I will tell you the whole story. 

CONSTANTINE. Wait a moment, for even the 
batde is of small importance compared with the one 
thing which I want most to hear. 

GALLICANUS. What may that be ? 

CONSTANTINE. On your departure for the war 
you visited the temple of the gods ; on your return you 
went to the Church of the Apostles. Why ? 

GALLICANUS. You ask that ? 


CONSTANTINE. Have I not told you, man, that 
I wish to know above all things ! 

GALLICANUS. I will explain. 

CONSTANTINE. Proceed, I beg you. 

GALLICANUS. Most Sacred Emperor, I confess 
I visited the temples on my departure, as you have said, 
and humbly sought the help of gods and demons. 

CONSTANTINE. AccordingtotheoldRomancustom. 

GALLICANUS. To my thinking, a bad custom. 

CONSTANTINE. I am of the same mind. 

GALLICANUS. Then the tribunes arrived with 
their legions and we began our march. 

CONSTANTINE. You set out from Rome with 
great pomp. 

GALLICANUS. We pushed on, met the enemy, 
engaged them, and were defeated. 

CONSTANTINE. Romans defeated ! 


CONSTANTINE. When was such a disaster ever 
known in our history ! 

GALLICANUS. Once again I offered those hideous 
sacrifices, but what god came to my help ? The fury of 
the enemy redoubled, and great numbers of my men were 

CONSTANTINE. I am amazed. 

GALLICANUS. It was then that the tribunes, dis- 
regarding my orders, began to surrender. 

CONSTANTINE. To the enemy ? 


GALLICANUS. To the enemy. 

CONSTANTINE. And what did you do ? 

GALLICANUS. What could I do but take to flight ? 

CONSTANTINE. Impossible ! 

GALLICANUS. It is true. 

CONSTANTINE. What anguish for a man of your 
courage ! 

GALLICANUS. The sharpest. 

CONSTANTINE. And how did you escape ? 

GALLICANUS. My faithful companions, John and 
Paul, advised me to make a vow to the Creator. 

CONSTANTINE. Good advice. 

GALLICANUS. I found it so. Hardly had I opened 
my lips to make the vow than I received help from heaven. 


GALLICANUS. A young man of immense stature 
appeared before me carrying a cross on his shoulder. He 
bade me follow him sword in hand. 

CONSTANTINE. This young man, whoever he was, 
was sent from heaven. 

GALLICANUS. So it proved. At the same moment I 
saw at my side some soldiers whose faces were strange to 
me. They promised me their help. 

CONSTANTINE. The host of Heaven ! 

GALLICANUS. I am sure of it. Following in the 
steps of my guide, I advanced fearlessly into the midst of 
the enemy until I came face to face with their King, by 
name Bradan. Suddenly overcome by the strangest terror 


he threw himself at my feet, surrendered with his whole 
army, and promised to pay tribute in perpetuity to the 
ruler of the Roman world. 

CONST ANTINE. Now praise be to Him Who gave 
us this victory. Those who put their trust in Him will 
never be confounded. 

GALLICANUS. My experience witnesses to it. 

CONSTANTINE. And now I should like to know 
what became of the treacherous tribunes ? 

GALLICANUS. They hastened to implore my 

CONSTANTINE. And you showed them mercy ? 

GALLICANUS. I show mercy to men who had 
abandoned me in the hour of peril and surrendered to the 
enemy against my orders ! No, assuredly ! 

CONSTANTINE. What did you do ? 

GALLICANUS. I offered to pardon them on one 

CONSTANTINE. What condition ? 

GALLICANUS. I told them that those who con- 
sented to become Christians would be allowed to retain 
their rank, and might even receive fresh honours, but that 
those who refused would not be pardoned, and would be 

CONSTANTINE. A fair proposition, and honour- 
able to the leader who made it. 

GALLICANUS. For my own part, purified in the 
waters of baptism, I have surrendered myself completely 


to the will of God. I am ready to renounce even your 
daughter, whom I love more than anything in the world. 
I wish to abstain from marriage that I may devote myself 
wholly to the service of the Virgin's Son. 

CONSTANTINE. Come near, nearer yet, and let me 
fold you in my arms ! Now, Gallicanus, the time has come 
for me to tell you what up to now I have been obliged to 
keep secret. 

GALLICANUS. What is it ? 

CONSTANTINE. My daughter, and your own two 
also, have chosen the same holy path which you yourself 
wish to follow. 

GALLICANUS. I rejoice to hear it. 

CONSTANTINE. Their desire to keep their vow of 
virginity is so ardent that neither entreaties nor threats 
can alter their resolution. 

GALLICANUS. God help them to persevere ! 

CONSTANTINE. Come, let us go to their apartments. 

GALLICANUS. Lead on. I will follow. 

CONSTANTINE. They are coming here. Look, 
they hasten to greet us, and my glorious mother, noble 
Helena, is with them. They all weep for joy. 


GALLICANUS. Be at peace, most holy virgins. 
Persevere in the fear of God, and preserve untouched the 
treasure of your virginity. Then you will be worthy of 
the embraces of the eternal King. 


CONSTANCE. We shall keep our vows with more 
joy now we know that you are on our side. 

GALLICANUS. Have no fear that I shall put any 
obstacle in your way. Far from it ! I consent gladly, and 
desire nothing better than to see you fulfil your vow, 
my Constance, you, for whom I was eager to risk life 

CONSTANCE. I see the hand of the Most High 
in this change in you. 

GALLICANUS. If I had not changed, and for the 
better, I could never have consented to renounce you. 

CONSTANCE. The Lover of virginal purity and the 
Author of all good resolutions .made you renounce me 
because He had already claimed me for His own. May 
He Who has separated us in the body on earth unite us in 
the joys of eternity. 

GALLICANUS. So be it ! So be it ! 

CONST ANTINE. And now, since we are united in 
the bond of Christ's love, you shall live with us in our 
palace, and be treated with as much honour as though 
you were our own son. 

GALLICANUS. What temptation is to be feared 
more than the lust of the eyes ? 

CONSTANTINE. None, I know. 

GALLICANUS. Then is it right that I should see 
her too often ? As you know, I love her more than my 
own kin, more than my life, more than my soul ! 

CONSTANTINE. You must do what you think best. 


GALLICANUS. Thanks to our Lord Christ and to 
my labours, your army was never so strong as now. Give 
me leave, then, to transfer my service to that Emperor 
through Whose power I have returned victorious, and to 
Whom I owe any success I have won in life. 

CONSTANT INE. To Him be praise and glory. All 
creatures should serve Him. 

GALLICANUS. Above all those whom He has 
generously helped in time of need. 

CONST ANTINE. That is true. 

GALLICANUS. I am giving to my daughters the 
portion of my property which is theirs by right. Another 
I am devoting to the support of pilgrims. With the 
remainder I propose to enrich my slaves — whom I have 
freed — and to relieve the poor. 

CONST ANTINE. You are disposing of your wealth 
wisely, and you will be rewarded. 

GALLICANUS. As for me, I long to go to Ostia and 
become the disciple of the holy man, Hilarion. In his 
brotherhood I hope to spend the rest of my life praising 
God and helping the poor. 

CONST ANTINE. May the Divine Being to Whom 
all things are possible bring your plans to a happy issue ! 
May you always do the will of Him Who lives and reigns 
in the Unity of the Trinity, and at last attain eternal joy ! 




JULIAN. The cause of the unrest in our Empire is 
clear enough. These Christians enjoy too much liberty. 
Their claim that they obey laws made in the time of 
Constantine is false. 

CONSULS. It would be a disgrace to tolerate it. 

JULIAN. I do not intend to tolerate it. 

CONSULS. Those words are worthy of you. 

JULIAN. Soldiers, arm yourselves and strip the 
Christians of all they possess. Remind them of these 
words of their Christ : — " He who does not renounce all 
that he possesses for my sake cannot be my disciple." 

SOLDIERS. We will carry out your orders instantly. 


CONSULS. The soldiers have returned. 

JULIAN. Is all well? 

SOLDIERS. Well indeed. 

JULIAN. Why have you returned so soon ? 


SOLDIERS. We will tell you. We had planned 
to seize Gallicanus's castle and occupy it in your 
name. But no sooner did one of us set foot on the 
threshold than he was straightway stricken with 
leprosy or madness. 

JULIAN. Return and force Gallicanus to quit the 
realm or sacrifice to the gods. 


GALLICANUS. Do not waste your breath, fellows. 
Your advice is useless. I hold all that exists beneath the 
sun as nothing compared with eternal life. Banished for 
Christ's sake, I shall retire to Alexandria, where I hope to 
win the martyr's crown. 


SOLDIERS. Gallicanus, exiled by your orders, fled to 
Alexandria. He was arrested in that city by the Governor, 
Ratianus, and has perished by the sword. 

JULIAN. That is well. 

SOLDIERS. But John and Paul still defy you. 

JULIAN. What are they doing ? 

SOLDIERS. Travelling up and down the country 
giving away the fortune Constance left them. 

JULIAN. Bring them before me. 

SOLDIERS. They are here. 



JULIAN. John and Paul, from the cradle you have 
been attached to the Emperor's household. You served 
my predecessor. 

JOHN. That is so. 

JULIAN. Then what could be more fitting than that 
you should serve me also in this palace where you were 
brought up ? 

PAUL. We will not serve you. 

JULIAN. You refuse? 

JOHN. We have said it. 

JULIAN. Do you deny that I am Augustus ? 

PAUL. No, but we say you are Augustus with a 

JULIAN. How do I differ from my predecessors ? 

JOHN. In your religion and your virtue. 

JULIAN. What do you mean ? 

PAUL. We mean that those most famous and glorious 
princes, Constantine, Constantius and Constance, whom 
we served, were very Christian rulers who were zealous 
in the service of God. 

JULIAN. I know, but in this I do not choose to follow 
their example. 

PAUL. You follow worse examples. They frequented 
the churches and, laying their diadems on the ground, 
adored Jesus Christ on their knees. 

JULIAN. And you think that I should imitate them ? 


JOHN. You are not made of the same stuff. 

PAUL. By doing homage to the Creator they elevated 
the Imperial dignity — yes, they transfigured it with 
the splendour of their virtue and their holy lives. So 
they deserved the success which crowned their enter- 

JULIAN. As I do. 

JOHN. In a very different way, for the divine grace 
was with them. 

JULIAN. Absurd ! Once I too was fool enough to 
believe in these meaningless practices. I was a priest of 
your Church. 

JOHN. Do you hear, Paul ? How do you like this 
priest ? 

PAUL. Very well — as the devil's chaplain. 

JULIAN. But when I found that there was nothing 
to be gained from it, I turned to the worship of the true 
Roman gods, thanks to whom I have been raised to the 
highest pinnacle of power. 

JOHN. You cut us short with this boast to avoid 
hearing the righteous praised. 

JULIAN. What is it to me ? 

PAUL. Nothing ; but we would add something which 
does concern you. When the world was no longer worthy 
of those princes, they were summoned to the choir of 
angels, and this unhappy realm fell under your power. 

JULIAN. Why unhappy ? 

JOHN. Because of the character of its ruler. 


PAUL. Have you not renounced the true religion and 
adopted the superstitions of idolatry ? Because of this 
we have shunned you and your court. 

JULIAN. You show yourselves gready wanting in the 
respect due to me, yet I am ready to pardon your pre- 
sumption and raise you to the highest office in my 

JOHN. You waste your breath, apostate ! We shall 
yield neither to blandishments nor threats. 

JULIAN. I will give you ten days' grace, in the hope 
that you will come to your senses and repent. If you do, 
you will regain our Imperial favour. If not, I shall do 
what I have to do. You shall not make a mock of me. 

PAUL. What you have to do, do now, for you can 
never make us return either to your court, your service, or 
your gods. 

JULIAN. You are dismissed. Leave me, but heed my 

JOHN. We willingly accept the respite you have 
granted us, but only that we may spend the time con- 
secrating all our faculties to heaven, and commending 
ourselves to God in prayer and fasting. 

PAUL. This is all we have to do now. 


JULIAN. Go, Terentianus. Take with you a few 
trusted soldiers and compel John and Paul to sacrifice to 


Jupiter. If they persist in their refusal, let them be put to 
death, not publicly, but with the greatest possible secrecy, 
since they once held office in this palace. 


TERENTIANUS. Paul and John, the Emperor 
Julian, my master, of his clemency sends you this gold 
statue of Jupiter, and commands you to burn incense 
before it. Refuse, and you will be put to death. 

JOHN. Since Julian is your master, live at peace with 
him, and enjoy his favour. But we have no master except 
our Lord Jesus Christ, for Whose love we ardently desire 
to die that we may the more quickly taste the joys of 

TERENTIANUS. Soldiers, why do you delay? 
Draw your swords and strike these traitors to the gods and 
to their Emperor. When they have breathed their last 
bury them secretly in this house and remove every trace 
of blood. 

SOLDIERS. And if questions are asked, what are we 
to say ? 

TERENTIANUS. Say they have been banished. 

JOHN. To Thee, O Christ, Who reigneth with the 
Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, we raise our voices 
in this dreadful hour ! In death as in life we praise Thee. 

PAUL. O Christ, receive our souls, which for Thy 
sake are being driven from this dwelling of clay ! 



TERENTIANUS. Christians, Christians, what ails 
my son ? 

CHRISTIANS. He grinds his teeth, foams at the 
mouth, and rolls his eyes like a madman. He is sure 
possessed by a devil. 

TERENTIANUS. Woe to his father ! Where was 
he stricken ? 

CHRISTIANS. Before the tomb of the martyrs John 
and Paul. He writhes on the ground, and cries out that 
they are the cause of his torments. 

TERENTIANUS. Mine the fault ! Mine the crime ! 
It was at my command that the wretched boy laid his 
impious hands on those holy martyrs. 

CHRISTIANS. Since you were the partner of his 
guilt, it is right that you should share his sufferings. 

TERENTIANUS. I did but obey the wicked com- 
mands of my master, the Emperor Julian. 

CHRISTIANS. He himself has been struck down by 
the divine wrath. 

TERENTIANUS. I know, and am the more terrified. 
I see that no enemy of those servants of God can escape 

CHRISTIANS. You are right there. 

TERENTIANUS. What if in expiation of my crime 
I threw myself on my knees before the holy tombs ? 

CHRISTIANS. You would win pardon if you were 
first cleansed by baptism. 



TERENTIANUS. Glorious witnesses of Christ, John 
and Paul, follow the example and commandment of your 
Master, and pray for your persecutors. Have compassion 
on the anguish of a father who fears to lose his child ! 
Have pity on the sufferings of the son ! Succour us both, 
and grant that, purified in the waters of baptism, we may 
persevere in the faith. 

CHRISTIANS. Dry your tears, Terentianus. Here is 
balm for your anguish. Look ! Your son has recovered 
his health and his reason through the intercession of the 

TERENTIANUS. Praise to the Eternal King Who 
covers His servants with such glory ! Not only do their 
souls rejoice in heaven, but in the depths of the sepulchre 
their lifeless bones work astounding miracles, testifying 
to their sanctity and to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ 
Who liveth and reigneth ! 



The martyrdom of the holy virgins Agape, Chionia, and 
Irena. The Governor Dulcitius seeks them out in the 
silence of the night with criminal intent, but hardly has 
he entered their dwelling than he becomes the victim of a 
delusion, under which he mistakes for the objects of his 
passion the saucepans and frying-pans in the kitchen. 
These he embraces and covers with kisses until his face 
and clothes are black with soot and dirt. Later, by order 
of Diocletian, he hands the maidens over to the care of 
Sisinnius, who is charged with their punishment. Sisin- 
nius in his turn is made the sport of the most strange 
delusions, but at length succeeds in getting Agape and 
Chionia burnt, and Irena shot to death with arrows. 






DULCITIUS {Governor of Thessalonicd). 




Ushers of the Imperial Palace. 

Ladies-in- Waiting on the Wife of Dulcitius. 



DIOCLETIAN. The pure and famous race to which 
you belong and your own rare beauty make it fitting that 
you should be wedded to the highest in our court. Thus 
we decree, making the condition that you first promise to 
deny your Christ and sacrifice to the gods. 

AGAPE. We beg you not to concern yourself about 
us, and it is useless to make preparations for our marriage. 
Nothing can make us deny that Name which all should 
confess, or let our purity be stained. 

DIOCLETIAN. What does this madness mean ? 

AGAPE. What sign of madness do you see in us ? 

DIOCLETIAN. It is clear enough. 

AGAPE. In what way are we mad ? 

DIOCLETIAN. Is it not madness to give up prac- 
tising an ancient religion and run after this silly new 
Christian superstition ? 

AGAPE. You are bold to slander the majesty of 
Almighty God. It is dangerous. 

DIOCLETIAN. Dangerous ? To whom ? 

AGAPE. To you, and to the state you rule. 


DIOCLETIAN. The girl raves. Take her away. 

CH IONIA. My sister does not rave. She is right. 

DIOCLETIAN. This maenad seems even more 
violent than the other ! Remove her also from our 
presence, and we will question the third. 

IRENA. You will find her as rebellious and as deter- 
mined to resist. 

DIOCLETIAN. Irena, you are the youngest in years. 
Show yourself the oldest in dignity. 

IRENA. Pray tell me how. 

DIOCLETIAN. Bow your head to the gods, and set 
an example to your sisters. It may rebuke and save 

IRENA. Let those who wish to provoke the wrath of 
the Most High prostrate themselves before idols ! I will 
not dishonour this head which has been anointed with 
heavenly oil by abasing it at the feet of images. 

DIOCLETIAN. The worship of the gods does not 
bring dishonour to those who practise it, but, on the 
contrary, the greatest honour. 

IRENA. What could be more shameful baseness, what 
baser shame, than to venerate slaves as if they were lords ? 

DIOCLETIAN. I do not ask you to worship slaves, 
but the gods of princes and the rulers of the earth. 

IRENA. A god who can be bought cheap in the 
market-place, what is he but a slave ? 

DIOCLETIAN. Enough of this presumptuous chatter. 
The rack shall put an end to it ! 


IRENA. That is what we desire. We ask nothing 
better than to suffer the most cruel tortures for the love 
of Christ. 

DIOCLETIAN. Let these obstinate women who 
dare to defy our authority be laden with chains and 
thrown into a dungeon. Let them be examined by 
Governor Dulcitius. 


DULCITIUS. Soldiers, produce your prisoners. 

SOLDIERS. The ones you wanted to see are in 

DULCITIUS. Ye Gods, but these girls are beauti- 
ful ! What grace, what charm ! 

SOLDIERS. Perfect! 

DULCITIUS. I am enraptured ! 

SOLDIERS. No wonder! 

DULCITIUS. I'm in love ! Do you think they will 
fall in love with me ? 

SOLDIERS. From what we know, you will have 
little success. 


SOLDIERS. Their faith is too strong. 

DULCITIUS. A few sweet words will work 
wonders ! 

SOLDIERS. They despise flattery. 


DULCITIUS. Then I shall woo in another fashion — 
with torture ! 

SOLDIERS. They would not care. 

DULCITIUS. What's to be done, then ? 

SOLDIERS. That is for you to find out. 

DULCITIUS. Lock them in the inner room — the one 
leading out of the passage where the pots and pans are 

SOLDIERS. Why there ? 

DULCITIUS. I can visit them oftener. 

SOLDIERS. It shall be done. 


DULCITIUS. What can the prisoners be doing at 
this hour of night ? 

SOLDIERS. They pass the time singing hymns. 

DULCITIUS. Let us approach. 

SOLDIERS. Now you can hear their silver-sweet 
voices in the distance. 

DULCITIUS. Take your torches, and guard the 
doors. I will go in and enjoy myself in those lovely arms ! 

SOLDIERS. Enter. We will wait for you here. 


AGAPE. What noise is that outside the door ? 
IRENA. It is that wretch Dulcitius. 


CHIOXIA. Now may God protect us ! 

AGAPE. Amen. 

CHIONIA. There is more noise ! It sounds like the 
clashing of pots and pans and fire-irons. 

IRENA. I will go and look. Come quick and peep 
through the crack of the door ! 

AGAPE. What is it ? 

IRENA. Oh, look ! He must be out of his senses ! 
I believe he thinks that he is kissing us. 

AGAPE. What is he doing ? 

IRENA. Now he presses the saucepans tenderly to 
his breast, now the kettles and frying-pans ! He is kissing 
them hard ! 

CHIONIA. How absurd ! 

IRENA. His face, his hands, his clothes ! They are 
all as black as soot. He looks like an Ethiope. 

AGAPE. I am glad. His body should turn black — 
to match his soul, which is possessed of a devil. 

IRENA. Look ! He is going now. Let us watch the 
soldiers and see what they do when he goes out. 


SOLDIERS. What's this ? Either one possessed by 
the devil, or the devil himself. Let's be off ! 

DULCITIUS. Soldiers, soldiers ! Why do you hurry 
away ? Stay, wait ! Light me to my house with your 


SOLDIERS. The voice is our master's voice, but the 
face is a devil's. Come, let's take to our heels ! This 
devil means us no good. 

DULCITIUS. I will hasten to the palace. I will tell 
the whole court how I have been insulted. 


DULCITIUS. Ushers, admit me at once. I have 
important business with the Emperor. 

USHERS. Who is this fearsome, horrid monster ? 
Coming here in these filthy rags ! Come, let us beat 
him and throw him down the steps. Stop him from 
coming further. 

DULCITIUS. Ye gods, what has happened to me ? 
Am I not dressed in my best ? Am I not clean and 
fine in my person ? And yet everyone who meets me 
expresses disgust at the sight of me and treats me as if 
I were some foul monster ! I will go to my wife. She 
will tell me the truth. But here she comes. Her looks 
are wild, her hair unbound, and all her household follow 
her weeping. 


WIFE OF DULCITIUS. My lord, my lord, what 
evil has come on you ? Have you lost your reason, 
Dulcitius ? Have the Christ-worshippers put a spell on 
you ? 


DULCITIUS. Now at last I know ! Those artful 
women have made an ass of me ! 

WIFE OF DULCITIUS. What troubled me most, 
and made my heart ache, was that you should not know 
there was anything amiss with you. 

DULCITIUS. Those impudent wenches shall be 
stripped and exposed naked in public. They shall have 
a taste of the outrage to which I have been subjected ! 


SOLDIERS. Here we are sweating like pigs and 
what's the use ? Their clothes cling to their bodies 
like their own skin. What's more, our chief, who 
ordered us to strip them, sits there snoring, and there's 
no way of waking him. We will go to the Emperor 
and tell him all that has passed. 


DIOCLETIAN. I grieve to hear of the outrageous 
way in which the Governor Dulcitius has been insulted 
and hoaxed ! But these girls shall not boast of having 
blasphemed our gods with impunity, or of having made 
a mock of those who worship them. I will entrust 
the execution of my vengeance to Count Sisinnius. 



SISINNIUS. Soldiers, where are these impudent 
hussies who are to be put to the torture ? 

SOLDIERS. In there. 

SISINNIUS. Keep Irena back, and bring the others 

SOLDIERS. Why is one to be treated differently ? 

SISINNIUS. She is young, and besides she may be 
more easily influenced when not intimidated by her 

SOLDIERS. That may be so. 


SOLDIERS. We have brought the girls you asked for. 

SISINNIUS. Agape, and you, Chionia, take my 

AGAPE. And if we do, what then ? 

SISINNIUS. You will sacrifice to the gods. 

AGAPE. We offer a perpetual sacrifice of praise to 
the true God, the eternal Father, to His Son, co-eternal, 
and to the Holy Ghost. 

SISINNIUS. I do not speak of that sacrifice. That is 
prohibited on pain of the most severe penalties. 

AGAPE. You have no power over us, and can never 
compel us to sacrifice to demons. 

SISINNIUS. Do not be obstinate. Sacrifice to the 
gods, or by order of the Emperor Diocletian I must put 
you to death. 


CHIONIA. Your Emperor has ordered you to put us 
to death, and you must obey, as we scorn his decree. 
If you were to spare us out of pity, you also would 

SISINNIUS. Come, soldiers! Seize these blas- 
phemers and fling them alive into the flames. 

SOLDIERS. We will build a pyre at once. The 
fierceness of the fire will soon put an end to their 

AGAPE. O Lord, we know Thy power ! It would 
not be anything strange or new if the fire forgot its nature 
and obeyed Thee. But we are weary of this world, and 
we implore Thee to break the bonds that chain our souls, 
and to let our bodies be consumed that we may rejoice 
with Thee in heaven. 

SOLDIERS. O wonderful, most wonderful ! Their 
spirits have left their bodies, but there is no sign of any 
hurt. Neither their hair, nor their garments, much less 
their bodies, have been touched by the flames ! 

SISINNIUS. Bring Irena here. 

SOLDIERS. There she is. 


SISINNIUS. Irena, take warning from the fate of 
your sisters, and tremble, for if you follow their example 
you will perish. 

IRENA. I long to follow their example, and to die, 
that I may share their eternal joy. 

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SOLDIERS. That is the only way to deal with her. 

SISINNIUS. Have no pity. Be rough with her, 
and drag her to the lowest brothel you can find. 

IRENA. They will never take me there. 

SISINNIUS. Indeed ! What can prevent them ? 

IRENA. The power that rules the world. 

SISINNIUS. We shall see. 

IRENA. Yes ! Sooner than you will like ! 

SISINNIUS. Soldiers, do not let the absurd pro- 
phecies of this woman interfere with your duty. 

SOLDIERS. We are not likely to be frightened by a 
slip of a girl ! We will carry out your orders at once. 


SISINNIUS. Who are these men hurrying towards 
us ? They cannot be the soldiers who took away Irena. 
Yet they resemble them. Yes, these are the men ! 
Why have you returned so suddenly ? Why are you 
panting for breath ? 

SOLDIERS. We ran back to find you. 

SISINNIUS. Where is the girl ? 

SOLDIERS. On the crest of the mountain. 

SISINNIUS. What mountain ? 

SOLDIERS. The mountain yonder, nearest this 

SISINNIUS. O fools, madmen ! Have you lost your 
senses ? 


SOLDIERS. What's the matter? Why do you 
look at us so threateningly, and speak with such 
anger ? 

SISINNIUS. May the gods crush you with their 
thunder ! 

SOLDIERS. What have we done ? How have we 
offended ? We have only obeyed your orders. 

SISINNIUS. Fools ! Did I not tell you to take this 
rebellious girl to a brothel ? 

SOLDIERS. That is so, but while we were on the 
way up came two young strangers and told us you 
had sent them to take Irena to the summit of the 

SISINNIUS. I learn this for the first time from you. 

SOLDIERS. So we see. 

SISINNIUS. What were these strangers like ? 

SOLDIERS. They were gorgeously dressed and 
looked like people of rank. 

SISINNIUS. Did you not follow them ? 

SOLDIERS. Yes, we followed them. 

SISINNIUS. What did they do ? 

SOLDIERS. They placed themselves one on each 
side of Irena, and told us to hasten and tell you what we 
had seen. 

SISINNIUS. Then there is nothing to do but for me 
to mount my horse and ride to the mountain to discover 
who has dared to play us this trick. 

SOLDIERS. We will come too. 



SISINNIUS. What has happened to me? These 
Christians have bewitched me. I wander blindly round 
this hill, and when I stumble on a path I can neither 
follow it nor return upon my steps. 

SOLDIERS. We are all the sport of some strange 
enchantment. We are exhausted. If you let this mad- 
woman live an hour longer it will be the death of us all. 

SISINNIUS. Take a bow one of you, bend it as 
far as you can, and loose a shaft that shall pierce this 
devilish witch. 

SOLDIERS. That's the way ! 

IRENA. You wretched Sisinnius ! Do you not blush 
for your shameful defeat ? Are you not ashamed that 
you could not overcome the resolution of a little child 
without resorting to force of arms ? 

SISINNIUS. I accept the shame gladly, since now 
I am sure of your death. 

IREXA. To me my death means joy, but to you 
calamity. For your cruelty you will be damned in 
Tartarus. But I shall receive the martyr's palm, and, 
adorned with the crown of virgimty, I shall enter the 
azure palace of the Eternal King, to Whom be glory 
and honour for ever and ever ! 



The resurrection of Drusiana and Callimachus. 

Callimachus cherishes a guilty passion for Drusiana, 
not only while she is alive but after she has died in the 
Lord. He dies from the bite of a serpent, but, thanks 
to the prayers of Saint John the Apostle, he is restored to 
life, together with Drusiana, and is born again in Christ. 










CALLIMACHUS. My friends, a word with you. 

FRIENDS. We are at your service as long as you please. 

CALLIMACHUS. I should prefer to speak with you 
apart from the crowd. 

FRIENDS. What pleases you, pleases us. 

CALLIMACHUS. Then we will go to some quieter 
place where no one will interrupt us. 

FRIENDS. Just as you like. 


CALLIMACHUS. For a long time now I have been 
in great trouble. I hope that by confiding in you I shall 
find relief. 

FRIENDS. When a man tells his friends of his suffer- 
ings it is only fair that they should try to share them. 

CALLIMACHUS. I would to heaven that you could 
lighten this load upon my heart ! 

FRIENDS. Well, tell us precisely what is wrong. We 
will grieve with you, if we must. If not, we can do our 
best to distract your mind. 



FRIENDS. What do you love ? 

CALLIMACHUS. A thing of beauty, a thing of 
grace ! 

FRIENDS. That is too vague ! How can we tell 
from this what is the object of your love ? 


FRIENDS. Ah, now you say " woman " we all 
understand ! 

CALLIMACHUS. By woman, I mean a woman. 

FRIENDS. Clearer still ! But it is impossible to 
give an opinion on a subject until the subject is defined. 
So name the woman. 


FRIENDS. What ? The wife of Prince Andronicus ? 


FRIENDS. Nothing can come of that. She has been 

CALLIMACHUS. What do I care, if I can win 
her love ? 

FRIENDS. You cannot. 

CALLIMACHUS. What makes you say so ? 

FRIENDS. You are crying for the moon. 

CALLIMACHUS. Am I the first to do so ? Have I 
not the example of many others to encourage me ? 

FRIENDS. Now listen. This woman you sigh for 
is a follower of the holy Apostle John, and has devoted 
herself entirely to God. They say she will not even go 


to the bed of Andronicus although he is a devout Christian. 
Is it likely that she will listen to you ? 

CALLIMACHUS. I came to you for consolation, 
and instead you drive me to despair ! 

FRIENDS. We should be poor friends if we consoled 
and flattered you at the expense of the truth. 

CALLIMACHUS. Since you refuse to advise me, 
I will go to her and pour out my soul in words that would 
melt a heart of stone ! 

FRIENDS. Fool ! it is hopeless ! 

CALLIMACHUS. I defy the stars ! 

FRIENDS. We shall see. 


CALLIMACHUS. Drusiana, listen to me ! Drusiana, 
my deepest heart's love ! 

DRUSIANA. Your words amaze me, Callimachus. 
What can you want of me ? 

CALLIMACHUS. You are amazed ? 

DRUSIANA. I am astounded. 

CALLIMACHUS. First I want to speak of love ! 

DRUSIANA. Love! What love? 

CALLIMACHUS. That love with which I love you 
above all created things. 

DRUSIANA. Why should you love me ? You are 
not of my kin. There is no legal bond between us. 

CALLIMACHUS. It is your beauty. 


DRUSIANA. My beauty? 


DRUSIANA. What is my beauty to you ? 

CALLIMACHUS. But little now— it is that which 
tortures me — but I hope that it may be much before 

DRUSIANA. Not a word more. Leave me at once, 
for it is a sin to listen to you now that I understand your 
devilish meaning. 

CALLIMACHUS. My Drusiana, do not kill me with 
your looks. Do not drive away one who worships you, 
but give back love for love. 

DRUSIANA. Wicked, insidious words ! They fall 
on deaf ears. Your love disgusts me. Understand I 
despise you ! 

CALLIMACHUS. You cannot make me angry, 
because I know that you would own my passion moves 
you if you were not ashamed. 

DRUSIANA. It moves me to indignation, nothing else. 

CALLIMACHUS. That feeling will not last. 

DRUSIANA. I shall not change, be sure of that. 

CALLIMACHUS. I would not be too sure. 

DRUSIANA. You frantic, foolish man ! Do not 
deceive yourself ! Why delude yourself with vain hopes ? 
What madness leads you to think that I shall yield ? I 
have renounced even what is lawful — my husband's bed ! 

CALLIMACHUS. I call heaven and earth to witness 
that if you do not yield I will never rest from the fight for 


you. I will be as cunning as the serpent. I will use 
all my skill and strength to trap you. 


DRUSIANA. O Lord Jesus, what use is my vow 
of chastity ? My beauty has all the same made this 
man love me. Pity my fears, O Lord. Pity the grief 
which has seized me. I know not what to do. If I 
tell anyone what has happened, there will be disorder in 
the city on my account ; if I keep silence, only Thy 
grace can protect me from falling into the net spread for 
me. O Christ, take me to Thyself. Let me die swifdy. 
Save me from being the ruin of a soul ! 

ANDRONICUS. Drusiana, Drusiana ! Christ, what 
blow has fallen on me ! Drusiana is dead. Run one of 
you and fetch the holy man John. 


JOHN. Why do you weep, my son ? 

ANDRONICUS. Oh, horrible ! O Lord, that life 
should suddenly become so hateful ! 

JOHN. What troubles you ? 

ANDRONICUS. Drusiana, your disciple, Drusiana — 

JOHN. She has passed from the sight of men ? 

ANDRONICUS. Yes. And I am desolate. 

JOHN. It is not right to mourn so bitterly for those 
whose souls we know rejoice in peace. 


ANDRONICUS. God knows I do not doubt that her 
soul is in eternal joy, and that her incorrupt body will 
rise again. What grieves me so sorely is that in my 
presence just now she prayed for death. She begged 
she might die. 

JOHN. You know her reason ? 

ANDRONICUS. I know it, and will tell you when 
I am less sick with grief. 

JOHN. Come. We must celebrate the funeral rites 
with proper ceremony. 

ANDRONICUS. There is a marble tomb near here 
in which the body shall be laid, and our steward 
Fortunatus shall guard her grave. 

JOHN. It is right that she should be interred with 
honour. God rest her soul in peace. 


CALLIMACHUS. Fortunatus, Fortunatus, what is 
to become of me ? Death itself cannot quench my love 
for Drusiana ! 

FORTUNATUS. Poor wretch ! 

CALLIMACHUS. I shaU die if you do not help me. 

FORTUNATUS. How can I help you ? 

CALLIMACHUS. In this. You can let me look on 
her, dead. 

FORTUNATUS. Up to now the body is sound and 
whole, I reckon because it was not wasted with disease. 
As you know she was taken in a moment by a fever. 


CALLIMACHUS. Oh, how happy I should be if 
I might see for myself. 

FORTUNATUS. If you are willing to pay me well, 
you can do what you like. 

CALLIMACHUS. Here, take all I have with me, 
and be sure that I will give you more, much more, 

FORTUNATUS. Quick, then ! We'll go to the tomb. 

CALLIMACHUS. You cannot go quickly enough 
for me. 


FORTUNATUS. There lies the body. The face is 
not like the face of a corpse. The limbs show no sign of 
decay. You can take her to your heart. 

CALLIMACHUS. O Drusiana, Drusiana, I wor- 
shipped you with my whole soul ! I yearned from my 
very bowels to embrace you ! And you repulsed me, 
and thwarted my desire. Now you are in my power, 
now I can wound you with my kisses, and pour out 
my love on you. 

FORTUNATUS. Take care ! A monstrous serpent ! 
It is coming towards us ! 

CALLIMACHUS. A curse on me ! And on you, 
Fortunatus, who led me on and urged me to this infamy. 
Wretch, may you die from the serpent's bite ! Terror 
and remorse are killing me. 



JOHN. Come, Andronicus, let us go to Drusiana's 
tomb, and commend her soul to Christ in prayer. 

ANDRONICUS. It is like your holiness not to forget 
one who trusted in you. 

JOHN. Behold ! The invisible God appears to us, 
made visible in the form of a beautiful youth. 

ANDRONICUS {To the Spectators). Tremble.* 

JOHN. Lord Jesus, why hast Thou deigned to manifest 
Thyself to Thy servants in this place ? 

GOD. To raise Drusiana from the dead, and with 
her him who lies outside her tomb, have I come, that 
in them My Name may be glorified. 

ANDRONICUS. How swiftly He was caught up 
again into heaven ! 

JOHN. I cannot altogether understand what this 

ANDRONICUS. Let us go on to the tomb. It may 
be that there what is now obscure will become clear. 


JOHN. In Christ's name, what miracle is this ? The 
sepulchre is open, and Drusiana's body has been cast 

* This admonition to " spectators " is in the MS. and 
seems inexplicable if Roswitha wrote her plays to be 
read, not performed. 


forth. And near it lie two other corpses enlaced in a 
serpent's coils. 

ANDRONICUS. I begin to understand. This is 
Callimachus, who while he lived was consumed with 
an unholy passion for Drusiana. It troubled her greatly 
and her distress brought on a fever. She prayed that 
she might die. 

JOHN. Such was her love of chastity. 

ANDRONICUS. After her death the wretched man, 
crazed with love, and stung by the defeat of his wicked 
plan, was still more inflamed by desire. 

JOHN. Pitiable creature ! 

ANDRONICUS. I have no doubt that he bribed this 
unworthy servant to give him the opportunity for com- 
mitting a detestable crime. 

JOHN. It is not to be believed ! 

ANDRONICUS. But death struck both of them 
down before the deed was accomplished. 

JOHN. They met their deserts. 

ANDRONICUS. What astonishes me most is that 
the Divine Voice should have promised the resurrection 
of him who planned the crime, and not of him who was 
only an accomplice. Maybe it is because the one, 
blinded by the passion of the flesh, knew not what he 
did, while the other sinned of deliberate malice. 

JOHN. With what wonderful exactness the Supreme 
Judge examines the deeds of men ! How even the 
scales in which He weighs the merits of each individual 


man ! None can understand, none explain. Human 
wisdom cannot grasp the subtlety of the divine judgment. 

ANDRONICUS. So we should be content to marvel 
at it, as it is not in our power to attain a precise know- 
ledge of the causes of things. 

JOHN. Often the sequel teaches us to understand 

ANDRONICUS. Then, blessed John, do now what 
you were told to do. Raise Callimachus to life, and the 
knot of our perplexity may be untied. 

JOHN. First I must invoke the name of Christ to 
drive away the serpent. Then Callimachus shall be 

ANDRONICUS. You are right ; else the venom of 
the creature might do him fresh injury. 

JOHN. Hence, savage monster ! Away from this man, 
for now he is to serve Christ. 

ANDRONICUS. Although the beast has no reason, 
it heeds your command. 

JOHN. Not through my power, but through Christ's, 
it obeys me. 

ANDRONICUS. Look ! As swift as thought it has 
vanished ! 

JOHN. O God, the world cannot contain nor the 
mind of man comprehend the wonders of Thy incalcul- 
able unity, Thou Who alone art what Thou art ! O Thou 
Who by mingling different elements canst create man, and 
by separating those elements again canst dissolve him, 


grant that the spirit and the body of this Callimachus may 
be joined once more, and that he may rise again wholly 
as he was, so that all looking on him may praise Thee, 
Who alone canst work miracles ! 

ANDRONICUS. Look ! The breath of life stirs in 
him again, but he does not move. 

JOHN. Calhmachus ! In the name of Christ, arise, 
and confess your sin ! Do not keep back the smallest 
grain of the truth. 

CALLIMACHUS. I cannot deny that I came here 
for an evil purpose, but the pangs of love consumed me. 
I was beside myself. 

JOHN. What mad folly possessed you ? That you 
should dare think of such a shameful outrage to the 
chaste dead ! 

CALLIMACHUS. Yes, I was mad ; but this knave 
Fortunatus led me on. 

JOHN. And now, most miserable man, confess ! 
Were you so vile as to do what you desired ? 

CALLIMACHUS. No ! I could think of it, but I 
could not do it. 

JOHN. What prevented you ? 

CALLIMACHUS. I had hardly touched the lifeless 
body — I had hardly drawn aside the shroud, when that 
fellow there, who has been the spark to my fire, died from 
the serpent's poison. 

ANDRONICUS. A good riddance ! 

CALLIMACHUS. At the same moment there 


appeared to me a young man, beautiful yet terrible, who 
reverently covered the corpse again. From his flaming 
face and breast burning coals flew out, and one of them, 
falling on me, touched my face. I heard a voice say, 
" Callimachus, die to live ! " It was then I breathed 
my last. 

JOHN. Oh, heavenly grace ! God delights not in the 
damnation of the wicked. 

CALLIMACHUS. You have heard the dreadful tale 
of my temptation. I beg you not to delay the merciful 

JOHN. I will not delay it. 

CALLIMACHUS. I am overwhelmed by the thought 
of my abominable crime. I repent with my whole 
heart, and bewail my sin. 

JOHN. That is but right, for a great fault must be 
atoned for by a great repentance. 

CALLIMACHUS. Oh, if I could lay bare my heart 
and show you the bitter anguish I suffer, you would 
pity me ! 

JOHN. Not so. Rather does your suffering fill me 
with joy, for I know that it will be your salvation. 

CALLIMACHUS. I loathe the delights of the flesh, 
and all the sins of my past life. 

JOHN. That is well. 

CALLIMACHUS. I truly repent my foul deed. 

JOHN. Again that is well. 

CALLIMACHUS. I am filled with such remorse 


that I have no desire to live unless I can be born again 
in Christ and changed. 

JOHN. I do not doubt that heavenly grace is at work 
in you. 

CALLIMACHUS. Oh, hasten then to help a man in 
dire need ! Give me some comfort ! Help me to throw 
off the grief which crushes me ! Show me how a Pagan 
may change into a Christian, a fornicator into a chaste 
man ! Oh, set my feet on the way of truth ! Teach 
me to live mindful of the divine promises ! 

JOHN. Now blessed be the only Son of God, Who 
made Himself partaker of our frailty, and showed you 
mercy, my son Callimachus, by striking you down with 
the death which has brought you to the true life. So has 
He saved the creature He made in His own image from 
the death of the soul. 

ANDRONICUS. Most strange, most wonderful 
miracle ! 

JOHN. O Christ, redemption of the world, and 
sinners' atonement, I have no words to praise Thee ! The 
sweetness of Thy compassion amazes me. Now Thou 
dost win the sinner with gentleness, now Thou dost 
chastise him with just severity, and callest on him to do 

ANDRONICUS. Glory to His divine goodness ! 

JOHN. Who would have presumed to hope that a 
man like this, intent on a wicked deed when death over- 
took him, would be raised to life again, and given the 


chance of making reparation ! Blessed be Thy name for 
ever and ever, O Thou Who alone canst do these 
wondrous things ! 

ANDRONICUS. Holy John, give me some comfort 
too. The love I bear my dead wife will not let me 
rest until I have seen her also called back from the dead. 

JOHN. Drusiana, our Lord Jesus Christ calls you 
back to life ! 

DRUSIANA. Glory and praise to Thee, O Lord, Who 
hast made me live again ! 

CALLIMACHUS. Thanks be to that merciful power, 
my Drusiana, through which you, who left this life in 
such sorrow, rise again in joy ! 

DRUSIANA. Venerable father John, you have 
restored to life Callimachus, who loved me sinfully. 
Should you not also raise from the dead the man who 
betrayed my buried body ? 

CALLIMACHUS. Apostle of Christ, do not believe 
it ! Will you release from the fetters of death this evil 
creature, this traitor, who led me away and persuaded me 
to venture on that horrible deed ? 

JOHN. You should not wish to deprive him of 
divine mercy, my son. 

CALLIMACHUS. He tried to ruin me! He is 
not worthy of resurrection ! 

JOHN. We are taught by our faith that man must 
forgive his fellow-man if he would be forgiven by 


ANDRONICUS. That is true. 

JOHN. Remember that when the only Son of God, 
the Virgin's first-born, the one man born without a stain, 
came into this world, He found us all bowed under the 
heavy weight of sin. 

ANDRONICUS. True again. 

JOHN. And though not one of us was guildess, He 
deprived no one of His mercy, but offered Himself for 
all, and for all laid down His life in love. 

ANDRONICUS. Had the Innocent One not been 
slain, none of us would have been saved. 

JOHN. He cannot rejoice in the damnation of those 
whom He bought with His blood. 

ANDRONICUS. To Him be praise ! 

JOHN. This is why we must not grudge the grace of 
God to anyone. It is no merit of ours if it abounds in 

CALLIMACHUS. Your rebuke makes me ashamed. 

JOHN. Yet it is not for me to oppose you. Drusiana, 
inspired by God Himself shall raise this man. 

DRUSIANA. Divine Essence without material form, 
Who hast made man in Thine own image and breathed 
into this clay the spirit of life, bring back the vital heat to 
the body of Fortunatus, that our triple resurrection may 
glorify the adorable Trinity. 

JOHN. Amen. 

DRL T SIANA. Fortunatus, awake, and in the name of 
Christ burst the bonds of death. 


FORTUNATUS. Who wakes me ? Who takes my 
hand ? Who calls me back to life ? 

JOHN. Drusiana. 

FORTUNATUS. How can that be ? Only a few 
days since she died. 

JOHN. Yes, but now, through the power of Christ, 
she lives again. 

FORTUNATUS. And is that Callimachus who 
stands there ? By his sober and pious look one would 
think he is no longer dying of love for his Drusiana ! 

JOHN. All that is changed. Now he loves and serves 


JOHN. It is true. 

FORTUNATUS. If it is as you say, if Drusiana has 
restored me to life and Callimachus believes in Christ, 
I reject life and choose death. I would rather not exist 
than see them swelling with grace and virtue ! 

JOHN. Oh, incredible envy of the devil ! Oh, malice 
of the old serpent, who since he made our first parents 
taste death has never ceased to writhe at the glory of the 
righteous ! Oh, Fortunatus, brimful of Satan's bitter 
gall, how much do you resemble the rotten tree that, 
bearing only bad fruit, must be cut down and cast into 
the fire ! To the fire you must go, where, deprived of the 
society of those who fear God, you will be tormented 
without respite for ever. 

ANDRONICUS. Look ! Oh, look ! His wounds 


have opened again. He has been taken at his word. He 
is dying. 

JOHN. Let him die and go down to hell, who through 
envious spite rejected the gift of life. 

ANDRONICUS. A terrible fate. 

JOHN. Nothing is more terrible than envy, nothing 
more evil than pride. 

ANDRONICUS. Both are vile. 

JOHN. The man who is the victim of one is the 
victim of the other, for they have no separate existence. 

ANDRONICUS. Please explain. 

JOHN. The proud are envious, and the envious are 
proud. A jealous man cannot endure to hear others 
praised, and seeks to belitde those who are more perfect. 
He disdains to take a lower place, and arrogantly seeks to 
be put above his equals. 

ANDRONICUS. That is clear. 

JOHN. This wretched man's pride was wounded. 
He could not endure the humiliation of recognizing his 
inferiority to these two in whom he could not deny God 
had made more grace to shine. 

ANDRONICUS. I understand now why his resurrec- 
tion was not spoken of. It was known he would die 

JOHN. He deserved to die twice, for to his crime of 
profaning the sacred grave entrusted to him, he added 
hatred and envy of those who had been restored to life. 

ANDRONICUS. The wretched creature is dead now. 


JOHN. Come, let us go— Satan must have his own. 
This day shall be kept as a festival in thanksgiving for the 
wonderful conversion of Callimachus. Men shall long 
speak of it, and of his resurrection from the dead, and of 
Drusiana, on whom his love brought misery. Let us 
give thanks to God, that just and penetrating Judge Who 
alone can search the heart and reins and reward or punish 
fairly. To Him alone be honour, strength, glory, praise, 
and blessing, world without end. Amen. 




The fall and repentance of Mary, the niece of the hermit 
Abraham, who, after she has spent twenty years in the 
religious life as a solitary, abandons it in despair, and, 
returning to the world, does not shrink from becoming 
a harlot. But two years later Abraham, in the disguise 
of a lover, seeks her out and reclaims her. For twenty 
years she does penance for her sins with many tears, 
fastings, vigils, and prayers. 









ABRAHAM. Brother Ephrem, my dear comrade in 
the hermit life, may I speak to you now, or shall I wait 
until you have finished your divine praises ? 

EPHREM. And what can you have to say to me which 
is not praise of Him Who said : " Where two or three are 
gathered together in My Name, I am with them " ? 

ABRAHAM. I have not come to speak of anything 
which He would not like to hear. 

EPHREM. I am sure of it. So speak at once. 

ABRAHAM. It concerns a decision I have to make. 
I long for your approval. 

EPHREM. We have one heart and one soul. We 
ought to agree. 

ABRAHAM. I have a little niece of tender years. 
She has lost both her parents, and my affection for her has 
been deepened by compassion for her lonely state. I am 
in constant anxiety on her account. 

EPHREM. Ought you who have triumphed over the 
world to be vexed by its cares ! 


ABRAHAM. My only care is her radiant beauty ! 
What if it should one day be dimmed by sin. 

EPHREM. No one can blame you for being anxious. 

ABRAHAM. I hope not. 

EPHREM. How old is she? 

ABRAHAM. At the end of this year she will be 

EPHREM. She is very young. 

ABRAHAM. That does not lessen my anxiety. 

EPHREM. Where does she live ? 

ABRAHAM. At my hermitage now ; for at the 
request of her other kinsfolk I have undertaken to bring 
her up. The fortune left her ought, I think, to be 
given to the poor. 

EPHREM. A mind taught so early to despise temporal 
things should be fixed on heaven. 

ABRAHAM. I desire with all my heart to see her 
the spouse of Christ and devoted entirely to His service. 

EPHREM. A praiseworthy wish. 

ABRAHAM. I was inspired by her name. 

EPHREM. What is she called ? 


EPHREM. Mary ! Such a name ought to be 
adorned with the crown of virginity. 

ABRAHAM. I have no fear that she will be unwilling, 
but we must be gentle. 

EPHREM. Come, let us go, and impress on her that 
no life is so sweet and secure as the religious one. 



ABRAHAM. Mary, my child by adoption, whom I 
love as my own soul ! Listen to my advice as to a father's, 
and to Brother Ephrem's as that of a very wise man. 
Strive to imitate the chastity of the holy Virgin whose 
name you bear. 

EPHREM. Child, would it not be a shame if you, 
who through the mystery of your name are called to 
mount to the stars where Mary the mother of God 
reigns, chose instead the low pleasures of the earth ? 

MARY. I know nothing about the mystery of my 
name, so how can I tell what you mean ? 

EPHREM. Mary, my child, means " star of the sea " 
— that star which rules the world and all the peoples in 
the world. 

MARY. Why is it called the star of the sea ? 

EPHREM. Because it never sets, but shines always 
in the heavens to show mariners their right course. 

MARY. And how can such a poor thing as I am — 
made out of slime, as my uncle says — shine like my 
name ? 

EPHREM. By keeping your body unspotted, and 
your mind pure and holy. 

MARY. It would be too great an honour for any 
human being to become like the stars. 

EPHREM. If you choose you can be as the angels of 


God, and when at last you cast off the burden of this 
mortal body they will be near you. With them you will 
pass through the air, and walk on the sky. With them 
you will sweep round the zodiac, and never slacken your 
steps until the Virgin's Son takes you in His arms in His 
mother's dazzling bridal room ! 

MARY. Who but an ass would think little of such 
happiness ! So I choose to despise the things of earth, 
and deny myself now that I may enjoy it ! 

EPHREM. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings ! 
A childish heart, but a mature mind ! 

ABRAHAM. God be thanked for it ! 

EPHREM. Amen to that. 

ABRAHAM. But though by God's grace she has been 
given the light, at her tender age she must be taught how 
to use it. 

EPHREM. You are right. 

ABRAHAM. I will build her a little cell with a 
narrow entrance near my hermitage. I can visit her 
there often, and through the window instruct her in the 
psalter and other pages of the divine law. 

EPHREM. That is a good plan. 

MARY. I put myself under your direction, Father 

EPHREM. My daughter ! May the Heavenly 
Bridegroom to Whom you have given yourself in the 
tender bud of your youth shield you from the wiles of 
the devil ! 



ABRAHAM. Brother Ephrem, Brother Ephrem ! 
When anything happens, good or bad, it is to you I 
turn. It is your counsel I seek. Do not turn your face 
away, brother — do not be impatient, but help me. 

EPHREM. Abraham, Abraham, what has come to 
you ? What is the cause of this immoderate grief ? 
Ought a hermit to weep and groan after the manner of 
the world ? 

ABRAHAM. Was any hermit ever so stricken ? I 
cannot bear my sorrow. 

EPHREM. Brother, no more of this. To the point ; 
what has happened ? 

ABRAHAM. Mary ! Mary ! my adopted child ! 
Mary, whom I cared for so lovingly and taught with all 
my skill for ten years ! Mary 

EPHREM. Well, what is it ? 

ABRAHAM. Oh God ! She is lost ! 

EPHREM. Lost ? What do you mean ? 

ABRAHAM. Most miserably. Afterwards she ran 

EPHREM. But by what wiles did the ancient enemy 
bring about her undoing ? 

ABRAHAM. By the wiles of false love. Dressed in 
a monk's habit, the hypocrite went to see her often. He 
succeeded in making the poor ignorant child love him. 
She leapt from the window of her cell for an evil deed. 


EPHREM. I shudder as I listen to you. 

ABRAHAM. When the unhappy girl knew that she 
was ruined, she beat her breast and dug her nails into her 
face. She tore her garments, pulled out her hair. Her 
despairing cries were terrible to hear. 

EPHREM. I am not surprised. For such a fall a 
whole fountain of tears should rise. 

ABRAHAM. She moaned out that she could never be 
the same 

EPHREM. Poor, miserable girl ! 

ABRAHAM. And reproached herself for having for- 
gotten our warning. 

EPHREM. She might well do so. 

ABRAHAM. She cried that all her vigils, prayers, 
and fasts had been thrown away. 

EPHREM. If she perseveres in this penitence she 
will be saved. 

ABRAHAM. She has not persevered. She has added 
worse to her evil deed. 

EPHREM. Oh, this moves me to the depths of my 
heart ! 

ABRAHAM. After all these tears and lamentations 
she was overcome by remorse, and fell headlong into the 
abyss of despair. 

EPHREM. A bitter business ! 

ABRAHAM. She despaired of being able to win 
pardon, and resolved to go back to the world and its 


EPHREM. I cannot remember when the devil could 
boast of such a triumph over the hermits. 

ABRAHAM. Now we are at the mercy of the 

EPHREM. I marvel that she could have escaped 
without your knowledge. 

ABRAHAM. If I had not been so blind ! I ought 
to have paid more heed to that terrible vision. Yes, I see 
now that it was sent to warn me. 

EPHREM. What vision? 

ABRAHAM. I dreamed I was standing at the door 
of my cell, and that a huge dragon with a loathsome stench 
rushed violendy towards me. I saw that the creature 
was attracted by a little white dove at my side. It 
pounced on the dove, devoured it, and vanished. 

EPHREM. There is no doubt what this vision meant. 

ABRAHAM. When I woke I turned over in my mind 
what I had seen, and took it as a sign of some persecution 
threatening the Church, through which many of the 
faithful would be drawn into error. I prostrated myself 
in prayer, and implored Him Who knows the future to 
enlighten me. 

EPHREM. You did right. 

ABRAHAM. On the third night after the vision, 
when for weariness I had fallen asleep, I saw the beast 
again, but now it was lying dead at my feet, and the 
dove was flying heavenwards safe and unhurt. 

EPHREM. I am rejoiced to hear this, for to my 


thinking it means that some day Mary will return 
to you. 

ABRAHAM. I was trying to get rid of the uneasiness 
with which the first vision had filled me by thinking of 
the second, when my little pupil in her cell came to my 
mind. I remembered, although at the time I was not 
alarmed, that for two days I had not heard her chanting 
the divine praises. 

EPHREM. You were too tardy in noticing this. 

ABRAHAM. I admit it. I went at once to her cell, 
and, knocking at the window, I called her again and again, 
" Mary ! My child ! Mary ! " 

EPHREM. You called in vain ? 

ABRAHAM. " Mary," I said. " Mary, my child, 
what is wrong ? Why are you not saying your office ? " 
It was only when I did not hear the faintest sound that 
I suspected. 

EPHREM. What did you do then ? 

ABRAHAM. When I could no longer doubt that she 
had gone, I was struck with fear to my very bowels. I 
trembled in every limb. 

EPHREM. I do not wonder, since I, hearing of it, 
find myself trembling all over. 

ABRAHAM. Then I wept and cried out to the empty 
air, " What wolf has seized my lamb ? What thief has 
stolen my little daughter ? " 

EPHREM. You had good cause to weep ! To lose 
her whom you had cherished so tenderly ! 


ABRAHAM. At last some people came up who knew 
what had happened. From them I learned that she had 
gone back to the world. 

EPHREM. Where is she now ? 

ABRAHAM. No one knows. 

EPHREM. What is to be done ? 

ABRAHAM. I have a faithful friend, who is searching 
all the cities and towns in the country. He says he will 
never give up until he finds her. 

EPHREM. And if he finds her— what then ? 

ABRAHAM. Then I shall change these clothes, and 
in the guise of a worldling seek her out. It may be that 
she will heed what I say, and even after this shipwreck 
turn again to the harbour of her innocence and peace. 

EPHREM. And suppose that in the world they offer 
you flesh meat and wine ? 

ABRAHAM. If they do, I shall not refuse; otherwise 
I might be recognized. 

EPHREM. No one will blame you, brother. It will 
be but praiseworthy discretion on your part to loosen the 
bridle of strict observance for the sake of bringing back 
a soul. 

ABRAHAM. I am the more eager to try now I know 
you approve. 

EPHREM. He Who knows the secret places of the 
heart can tell with what motive every action is done. 
That scrupulous and fair Judge will not condemn a man 
for relaxing our strict rule for a time and descending to 


the level of weaker mortals if by so doing he can make more 
sure of rescuing an errant soul. 

ABRAHAM. Help me with your prayers. Pray that 
I may not be caught in the snares of the devil. 

EPHREM. May He Who is supreme good itself, 
without Whom no good thing can be done, bless your 
enterprise and bring it to a happy end ! 


ABRAHAM. Can that be my friend who two years 
ago went to search for Mary ? Yes, it is he ! 

FRIEND. Good-day, venerable father. 

ABRAHAM. Good-day, dear friend. I have waited 
so long for you. Of late I had begun to despair. 

FRIEND. Forgive me, father. I delayed my return 
because I did not wish to mock you with doubtful and 
unreliable news. As soon as I had discovered the truth 
I lost no time. 

ABRAHAM. You have seen Mary ? 

FRIEND. I have seen her. 

ABRAHAM. Where is she ? Come, sir, speak ! Tell 
me where. 

FRIEND. It goes to my heart to tell you. 

ABRAHAM. Speak — I implore you. 

FRIEND. She lives in the house of a man who trades in 
the love of young girls like her. A profitable business, for 
every day he makes a large sum of money out of her lovers. 


ABRAHAM. Her lovers ? Mary's lovers ? 


ABRAHAM. Who are they ? 

FRIEND. There are plenty of them. 

ABRAHAM. Good Jesu, what is this monstrous thing 
I hear ? Do they say that she, whom I brought up to be 
Thy bride, gives herself to strange lovers ? 

FRIEND. It comes naturally to harlots. 

ABRAHAM. If you are my friend, get me a saddle- 
horse somewhere and a soldier's dress. I am going to 
get into that place as a lover. 

FRIEND. Father, mine are at your service. 

ABRAHAM. And I must borrow a felt hat to cover 
my tonsure. 

FRIEND. That is most necessary, if you do not want 
to be recognized. 

ABRAHAM. I have one gold piece. Should I take 
it to give this man ? 

FRIEND. You should, for otherwise he will never 
let you see Mary. 


ABRAHAM. Good-day, friend. 

INN-KEEPER. Who's there? Good-day, Sir. 
Come in ! 

ABRAHAM. Have you a bed for a traveller who wants 
to spend a night here ? 



INN-KEEPER. Why certainly ! I never turn any- 
one away. 

ABRAHAM. I am glad of it. 

INN-KEEPER. Come in then, and I will order supper 
for you. 

ABRAHAM. I owe you thanks for this kind welcome, 
but I have a greater favour to ask. 

INN-KEEPER. Ask what you like. I will do my 
best for you. 

ABRAHAM. Accept this small present. May the 
beautiful girl who, I am told, lives here, have supper with 
me ? 

INN-KEEPER. Why should you wish to see her ? 

ABRAHAM. It would give me much pleasure. I 
have heard so much talk of her beauty. 

INN-KEEPER. Whoever has spoken to you of her has 
told only the truth. It would be hard to find a finer wench. 

ABRAHAM. I am in love with her already. 

INN-KEEPER. It's queer that an old man like you 
should dangle after a young girl. 

ABRAHAM. I swear I came here on purpose to feast 
my eyes on her. 


INN-KEEPER. Mary, come here ! Come along 
now and show off your charms to this young innocent ! 
MARY. I am coming. 


ABRAHAM. Oh, mind, be constant ! Tears, do not 
fall ! Must I look on her whom I brought up in the 
desert, decked out with a harlot's face ? Yes, I must hide 
what is in my heart. I must strive not to weep, and smile 
though my heart is breaking. 

INX-KEEPER. Luck comes your way, Mary ! Not 
only do young gallants of your own age flock to your arms, 
but even the wise and venerable ! 

MARY. It is all one to me. It is my business to love 
those who love me. 

ABRAHAM. Come nearer, Mary, and give me a kiss. 

MARY. I will give you more than a kiss. I will take 
your head in my arms and stroke your neck. 

ABRAHAM. Yes, like that ! 

MARY. What does this mean ? What is this lovely 
fragrance. So clean, so sweet. It reminds me of the 
time when I was good. 

ABRAHAM. On with the mask ! Chatter, make 
lewd jests like an idle boy ! She must not recognize 
me, or for very shame she may fly from me. 

MARY. Wretch that I am ! To what have I fallen ! 
In what pit am I sunk ! 

ABRAHAM. You forget where you are ! Do men 
come here to see you cry ! 

INN-KEEPER. What's the matter, Lady Mary? 
Why are you in the dumps ? You have lived here two 
years, and never before have I seen a tear, never heard 
a sigh or a word of complaint. 


MARY. Oh, that I had died three years ago before 
I came to this ! 

ABRAHAM. I came here to make love to yon, not 
to weep with you over your sins. 

MARY. A little thing moved me. and I spoke 
foolishly. It is nothing. Come, let us eat and drink and 
be merry, tor. as you say, this is not the place to think of 
one's sins. 

ABRAHAM. 1 have eaten and drunk enough, thanks 
to \i , i:r good table. Sir. Now by your leave 1 will ;. 
bed. My tired limbs need a rest. 

INN-KEEPER. As you please. 

MARY. Get up my lord. 1 will take you to bed. 

ABRAHAM. 1 hope so. 1 would not go at all unless 
you came with me. 


MARY. Look! How do you like this room? A 
handsome bed, isn't it ? Those trappings eost a lot of 
monev. Sit down and I will take off your shoes. You 
seem tired. 

ABRAHAM. First bolt the door. Someone may 
come in. 

MARY. Have no tear. I have seen to that. 

ABRAHAM. The time has come for me to show 
my shaven head, and make myself known ! Oh, my 
daughter ! Oh, Mary, you who are part of my soul ! 


Look at me. Do you not know me ? Do you not know 
the old man who cherished you with a father's love, and 
wedded you to the Son of the King of Heaven ? 

MARY. God, what shall I do ! It is my father and 
master Abraham ! 

ABRAHAM. What has come to you, daughter ? 

MARY. Oh, misery ! 

ABRAHAM. Who deceived you ? Who led you 
astray ? 

MARY. Who deceived our first parents ? 

ABRAHAM. Have you forgotten that once you lived 
like an angel on earth ! 

MARY. All that is over. 

ABRAHAM. What has become of your virginal 
modesty ? Your beautiful purity ? 

MARY. Lost. Gone! 

ABRAHAM. Oh, Mary, think what you have thrown 
away ! Think what a reward you had earned by your 
fasting, and prayers, and vigils. What can they avail 
you now ! You have hurled yourself from heavenly 
heights into the depths of hell ! 

MARY. Oh God, I know it ! 

ABRAHAM. Could you not trust me ? Why did you 
desert me ? Why did you not tell me of your fall ? Then 
dear brother Ephrem and I could have done a worthy 

MARY. Once I had committed that sin, and was 
defiled, how could I dare come near you who are so holy ? 


ABRAHAM. Oh, Mary, has anyone ever lived on 
earth without sin except the Virgin's Son ? 

MARY. No one, I know. 

ABRAHAM. It is human to sin, but it is devilish to 
remain in sin. Who can be jusdy condemned ? Not 
those who fall suddenly, but those who refuse to rise 

MARY. Wretched, miserable creature that I am ! 

ABRAHAM. Why have you thrown yourself down 
there ? Why do you lie on the ground without moving 
or speaking ? Get up, Mary ! Get up, my child, and 
listen to me ! 

MARY. No ! no ! I am afraid. I cannot bear your 

ABRAHAM. Remember how I love you, and you 
will not be afraid. 

MARY. It is useless. I cannot. 

ABRAHAM. What but love for you could have made 
me leave the desert and relax the strict observance of 
our rule ? What but love could have made me, a true 
hermit, come into the city and mix with the lascivious 
crowd ? It is for your sake that these lips have learned to 
utter light, foolish words, so that I might not be known ! 
Oh, Mary, why do you turn away your face from me and 
gaze upon the ground ? Why do you scorn to answer 
and tell me what is in your mind. 

MARY. It is the thought of my sins which crushes me. 
I dare not look at you ; I am not fit to speak to you. 


ABRAHAM. My little one, have no fear. Oh, do 
not despair ! Rise from this abyss of desperation and 
grapple God to your soul ! 

MARY. No, no ! My sins are too great. They 
weigh me down. 

ABRAHAM. The mercy of heaven is greater than 
you or your sins. Let your sadness be dispersed by its 
glorious beams. Oh, Mary, do not let apathy prevent 
your seizing the moment for repentance. It matters not 
how wickedness has flourished. Divine grace can flourish 
still more abundantly ! 

MARY. If there were the smallest hope of forgive- 
ness, surely I should not shrink from doing penance. 

ABRAHAM. Have you no pity for me ? I have 
sought you out with so much pain and weariness ! Oh 
shake off this despair which we are taught is the most 
terrible of all sins. Despair of God's mercy — for that 
alone there is no forgiveness. Sin can no more embitter 
His sweet mercy than a spark from a flint can set the 
ocean on fire. 

MARY. I know that God's mercy is great, but when 
I think how greatly I have sinned, I cannot believe any 
penance can make amends. 

ABRAHAM. I will take your sins on me. Only 
come back and take up your life again as if you had never 
left it. 

MARY. I do not want to oppose you. What you 
tell me to do I will do with all my heart. 


ABRAHAM. My daughter lives again ! I have found 
my lost lamb and she is dearer to me than ever. 

MARY. I have a few possessions here — a little gold 
and some clothes. What ought I to do with them ? 
_ ABRAHAM. What came to you through sin, with 
sin must be left behind. 

MARY. Could it not be given to the poor, or sold for 
an offering at the holy altar ? 

ABRAHAM. The price of sin is not an acceptable 
offering to God. 

MARY. Then I will not trouble any more about my 

ABRAHAM. Look ! The dawn ! It is growing 
light. Let us go. 

MARY. You go first, dearest father, like the good 
shepherd leading the lost lamb that has been found. The 
lamb will follow in your steps. 

ABRAHAM. Not so ! I am going on foot, but you— 
you shall have a horse so that the stony road shall not hurt 
your delicate feet. 

MARY. Oh, let me never forget this tenderness ! 
Let me try all my life to thank you ! I was not worth 
pity, yet you have shown me no harshness ; you have led 
me to repent not by threats but by gentleness and love. 

ABRAHAM. I ask only one thing, Mary. Be faith- 
ful to God for the rest of your life. 

MARY. With all my strength I will persevere, and 
though my flesh may fail, my spirit never will. 


ABRAHAM. You must serve God with as much 
energy as you have served the world. 

MARY. If His will is made perfect in me it will be 
because of your merits. 

ABRAHAM. Come, let us hasten on our way. 

MARY. Yes, let us set out at once. I would not stay 
here another moment. 


ABRAHAM. Courage, Mary ! You see how swiftly 
we have made the difficult and toilsome journey. 

MARY. Everything is easy when we put our hearts 
into it. 

ABRAHAM. There is your deserted little cell. 

MARY. God help me ! It was the witness of my 
sin. I dare not go there. 

ABRAHAM. It is natural you should dread the place 
where the enemy triumphed. 

MARY. Where, then, am I to do penance ? 

ABRAHAM. Go into the inner cell. There you 
will be safe from the wiles of the serpent. 

MARY. Most gladly as it is your wish. 

ABRAHAM. Now I must go to my good friend 
Ephrem. He alone mourned with me when you were 
lost, and he must rejoice with me now that you have been 

MARY. Of course. 



EPHREM. Well, brother ! If I am not mistaken, 
you bring good news. 

ABRAHAM. The best in the world. 

EPHREM. You have found your lost lamb ? 

ABRAHAM. I have, and, rejoicing, have brought 
her back to the fold. 

EPHREM. Truly this is the work of divine grace. 

ABRAHAM. That is certain. 

EPHREM. How is she spending her days ? I should 
like to know how you have ordered her life. What 
does she do ? 

ABRAHAM. All that I tell her. 

EPHREM. That is well. 

ABRAHAM. Nothing is too difficult for her — 
nothing too hard. She is ready to endure anything. 

EPHREM. That is better. 

ABRAHAM. She wears a hair shirt, and subdues her 
flesh with continual vigils and fasts. She is making the 
poor frail body obey the spirit by the most rigorous 

EPHREM. Only through such a severe penance can 
the stains left by the pleasures of the flesh be washed 

ABRAHAM. Those who hear her sobs are cut to the 
heart, and the tale of her repentance has turned many 
from their sins. 


EPHREM. It is often so. 

ABRAHAM. She prays continually for the men who 
through her were tempted to sin, and begs that she who 
was their ruin may be their salvation. 

EPHREM. It is right that she should do this. 

ABRAHAM. She strives to make her life as beautiful 
as for a time it was hideous. 

EPHREM. I rejoice at what you tell me. To the 
depths of my heart. 

ABRAHAM. And with us rejoice phalanxes of angels, 
praising the Lord for the conversion of a sinner. 

EPHREM. Over whom, we are told, there is more 
joy in heaven than over the just man who needs no 

ABRAHAM. The more glory to Him, because there 
seemed no hope on earth that she could be saved. 

EPHREM. Let us sing a song of thanksgiving — let 
us glorify the only begotten Son of God, Who of His 
love and mercy will not let them perish whom He 
redeemed with His holy blood. 

ABRAHAM. To Him be honour, glory, and praise 
through infinite ages. Amen. 



The conversion of Thais by the hermit Paphnutius. 
Obedient to a vision, he leaves the desert, and, disguised 
as a lover, seeks out Thais in Alexandria. She is moved 
to repent by his exhortations and, renouncing her evil 
life, consents to be enclosed in a narrow cell, where she 
does penance for three years. Paphnutius learns from a 
vision granted to Anthony's disciple Paul that her humility 
has won her a place among the blessed in Paradise. He 
brings her out of her cell and stays by her side until her 
soul has left her body. 











DISCIPLES.* Why do you look so gloomy, father 
Paphnutius ? Why do you not smile at us as usual ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. When the heart is sad the face 
clouds over. It is only natural. 

DISCIPLES. But why are you sad ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. I grieve over an injury to my 

DISCIPLES. What injury? 

PAPHNUTIUS. The in : ury His own creatures 
made in His very image inflict on Him. 

DISCIPLES. Oh, father, your words fill us with 
fear ! How can such things be ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. It is true that the impassible 
Majesty cannot be hurt by injuries. Nevertheless, speak- 
ing in metaphor, and as if God were weak with our 
weakness, what greater injury can we conceive than this 
— that while the greater world is obedient, and subject 
to His rule, the lesser world resists His guidance ? 

* When Paphnutius was acted, the dialogue of the 
" disciples " was allotted to several different actors, with 
the interesting result that some definite characters 


DISCIPLES. What do you mean by the lesser world ? 




DISCIPLES. Whatman? 

PAPHNUTIUS. Everyman. 

DISCIPLES. How can this be ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. It has pleased our Creator. 

DISCIPLES. We do not understand. 

PAPHNUTIUS. It is not plain to many. 

DISCIPLES. Explain, father. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Be attentive, then. 

DISCIPLES. We are eager to learn. 

PAPHNUTIUS. You know that the greater world is 
composed of four elements which are contraries, yet by 
the will of the Creator these contraries are adjusted in 
harmonious arrangement. Now, man is composed of even 
more contrary parts. 

DISCIPLES. What can be more contrary than the 
elements ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. The body and the soul. The soul 
is not mortal like the body, nor the body spiritual as is the 

DISCIPLES. That is true. But what did you mean, 
father, when you spoke of " harmonious arrangement " ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. I meant that as low and high sounds 
harmoniously united produce a certain music, so dis- 
cordant elements rightly adjusted make one world. 


DISCIPLES. It seems strange that discords can be- 
come concords. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Consider. No thing is composed of 
" likes " — neither can it be made up of elements which 
have no proportion among themselves, or which are 
entirely different in substance and nature. 

DISCIPLES. What is music, master ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. One of the branches of the 
" quadrivium " of philosophy, my son. Arithmetic, 
geometry, music, and philosophy form the quadrivium. 

DISCIPLES. I should like to know why they are 
given that name. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Because just as paths branch out 
from the quadrivium, the place where four roads meet, 
so do these subjects lead like roads from one principle 
of philosophy. 

DISCIPLES. We had best not question you about the 
other three, for our slow wits can scarcely follow what you 
have told us about the first. 

PAPHNUTIUS. It is a difficult subject. 

DISCIPLES. Still you might give us a general idea of 
the nature of music. 

PAPHNUTIUS. It is hard to explain to hermits to 
whom it is an unknown science. 

DISCIPLES. Is there more than one kind of music ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. There are three kinds, my son. 
The first is celestial, the second human, the third is 
produced by instruments. 



DISCIPLES. In what does the celestial consist ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. In the seven planets and the 
celestial globe. 

DISCIPLES. But how? 

PAPHNUTIUS. Exactly as in instruments. You 
find the same number of intervals of the same length, and 
the same concords as in strings. 

DISCIPLES. We do not understand what intervals 

PAPHNUTIUS. The dimensions which are reckoned 
between planets or between notes. 

DISCIPLES. And what are their lengths ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. The same as tones. 

DISCIPLES. We are none the wiser. 

PAPHNUTIUS. A tone is composed of two sounds, 
and bears the ratio of nine to eight. 

DISCIPLES. As soon as we get over one difficulty, 
you place a greater one in our path ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. That is inevitable in a discussion 
of this kind. 

DISCIPLES. Yet tell us something about concord, 
so that at least we may know the meaning of the word. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Concord, harmony, or symphonia 
may be defined as a fitting disposition of modulation. It 
is composed sometimes of three, sometimes of four, 
sometimes of five sounds. 

DISCIPLES. As you have given us these three 
distinctions, we should like to learn the name of each. 


PAPHNUTIUS. The first is called a fourth, as 
consisting of four sounds, and it has the proportion of four 
to three. The second is called a fifth. It consists of five 
sounds and bears the ratio of one and a half. The third 
is known as the diapason ; it is double and is perfected 
in eight sounds. 

DISCIPLES. And do the spheres and planets produce 
sounds, since they are compared to notes ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. Undoubtedly they do. 

DISCIPLE. Why is the music not heard ? 

DISCIPLES. Yes, why is it not heard ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. Many reasons are given. Some 
think it is not heard because it is so continuous that men 
have grown accustomed to it. Others say it is because 
of the density of the air. Some assert that so enormous a 
sound could not pass into the mortal ear. Others that the 
music of the spheres is so pleasant and sweet that if it were 
heard all men would v_ome together, and, forgetting them- 
selves and all their pursuits, would follow the sounds from 
east to west. 

DISCIPLES. It is well that it is not heard. 

PAPHNUTIUS. As our Creator foreknew. 

DISCIPLES. We have heard enough of this kind of 
music. What of" human " music ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. What do you want to know about 
that ? 

DISCIPLES. How is it manifested ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. Not only, as I have already told you, 


in the combination of body and soul, and in the utterance 
of the voice, now high, now low, but even in the pulsation 
of the veins, and in the proportion of our members. 
Take the finger-joints. In them, if we measure, we find 
the same proportions as we have already found in con- 
cord ; for music is said to be a fitting disposition not 
only of sounds, but of things with no resemblance to 

DISCIPLES. Had we known the difficulty that such 
a hard point presents to the ignorant, we would not have 
asked you about your " lesser world." It is better to 
know nothing than to be bewildered. 

PAPHNUTIUS. I do not agree. By trying to 
understand you have learned many things that you did 
not know before. 

DISCIPLES. That is true. 

DISCIPLE. True it may be, but I am weary of this 
disputation. We are all weary, because we cannot follow 
the reasoning of such a philosopher ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. Why do you laugh at me, children ? 
I am no philosopher, but an ignorant man. 

DISCIPLES. Where did you get all this learning with 
which you have puzzled our heads ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. It is but a little drop from the full 
deep wells of learning — wells at which I, a chance passer- 
by, have lapped, but never sat down to drain. 

DISCIPLE. We are grateful for your patience with 
us ; but I for one cannot forget the warning of the 


Apostle : " God hath chosen the foolish things of the 
world to confound the wise." 

PAPHNUTIUS. Whether a fool or a wise man does 
wrong, he will be confounded. 


PAPHNUTIUS. Nor is God offended by Knowledge 
of the Knowable, only by undue pride on the part of the 

DISCIPLES. That is well said. 

PAPHNUTIUS. And I would ask you— unto whose 
praise can the knowledge of the arts be more worthily 
or more justly turned than to the praise of Him Who 
made things capable of being known, and gave us the 
capacity to know them ? 

DISCIPLES. Truly, to none. 

PAPHNUTIUS. The more a man realizes the 
wonderful way in which God has set all things in number 
and measure and weight, the more ardent his love. 

DISCIPLES. That is as it should be. 

PAPHNUTIUS. But I am wrong to dwell on matters 
which give you so little pleasure. 

DISCIPLES. Tell us the cause of your sadness. 
Relieve us of the burden of our curiosity. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Perhaps you will not find the tale 
to your liking. 

DISCIPLES. A man is often sadder for having his 
curiosity satisfied, yet he cannot overcome this tendency 
to be curious. It is part of our weakness. 


PAPHNUTIUS. Brothers— there is a woman, a 
shameless woman, living in our neighbourhood. 

DISCIPLES. A perilous thing for the people. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Her beauty is wonderful: her 
impurity is-r-horrible. 

DISCIPLES. What is her wretched name ? 


DISCIPLES. Thais ! Thais, the harlot ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. Yes— she. 

DISCIPLE. Everyone has heard of her and her 

PAPHNUTIUS. It is no wonder, for she is not 
satisfied to ruin herself with a small band of lovers. She 
seeks to allure all men through her marvellous beauty, 
and drag them down with her. 

DISCIPLES. What a woeful thing ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. And it is not only fools and wastrels 
who squander their substance with her. Citizens of 
high standing and virtue lay precious things at her feet, 
and enrich her to their own undoing. 

DISCIPLES. It is terrible to hear of such things. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Flocks of lovers crowd to her 

DISCIPLES. And to their destruction ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. They are so crazed with desire that 
they quarrel and fight for admission to her house. 

DISCIPLES. One vice brings another in its train. 

PAPHNUTIUS. They come to blows. Heads are 


broken, faces bruised, noses smashed ; at times they drive 
each other out with weapons, and the threshold of the 
vhe place is dyed with blood ! 

DISCIPLES. Most horrible ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. This is the injury to the Creator 
for which I weep day and night. This is the cause of 
my sorrow. 

D.SCIPLES. We understand now. You have good 
reason to be distressed, and I doubt not that the citizens 
of the heavenly country share your grief. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Oh, to rescue her from that wicked 
life ! Why should I not try ? 

DISCIPLES. God forbid ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. Brother, our Lord Jesus went 
among sinners. 

DISCIPLES. Sh? would not receive a hermit. 

PAPHNUTIUS. What if I were to go in the disguise 
of a lover ? 

DISCIPLE. If that thought is from God, God will 
give you strength to accomplish it. 

PAPHNUTIUS. I will set out immediately. I 
shall need your best prayers. Pray that I may not 
be overcome by the wiles of the serpent. Pray that 
I may be able to show this soul the beauty of divine 

DISCIPLE. May He Who laid low the Prince of 
Darkness give you the victory over the enemy of the 
human race. 



PAPHNUTIUS. I am bewildered in this town. I 
cannot find my way. Now I shut my eyes, and I am 
back in the desert. I can hear my children's voices 
praising God. Good children, I know you are praying 
for me ! I fear to speak. I fear to ask my way. O God, 
come to my help ! I see some young men in the market- 
place. They are coming this way. I will go up to them 
and ask where she is to be found. 

THE YOUNG MEN. That stranger seems to want 
to speak to us. 

YOUNG MAN. Let us go and find out. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Your pardon, gentlemen. Am I 
speaking to citizens of this town ? 

YOUNG MAN. You are. Can we do anything for 
you ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. My salutations ! 

YOUNG MAN. And ours, whether you are a native 
or a foreigner. 

PAPHNUTIUS. I am a stranger. 

YOUNG MAN. What brings you here ? Have you 
come for pleasure, business, or learning ? This is a great 
city for learning. Which is it ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. I cannot say. 


PAPHNUTIUS. That is my secret. 

YOUNG MAN. It would be wiser to tell us your 


secret. It will be difficult for you, a stranger, to do your 
business here without the advice of us citizens. 

PAPHNUTIUS. But if I tell you, you may try to 
hinder me from carrying out my plans. 

YOUNG MAN. You can trust us. We are men 
of honour ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. I believe it. I will trust in your 
loyalty and tell you my secret. 

YOUNG MAN. We are not traitors. No harm shall 
come to you. 

PAPHNUTIUS. I am told that there lives in this 
town a woman who loves all who love her. She is kind 
to all men ; she'll not deny them anything. 

YOUNG MAN. Stranger, you must tell us her name. 
There are many women of that kind in our city. Do you 
know her name ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. Yes, I know it. 

YOUNG MAN. Who is she ? 


YOUNG MAN. Thais ! She is the flame of this 
land ! She sets all hearts on fire. 

PAPHNUTIUS. They say she is beautiful. The 
most exquisite woman of her kind in the world ! 

YOUNG MAN. They have not deceived you. 

PAPHNUTIUS. For her sake I have made a long and 
difficult journey. I have come here only to see her. 

YOUNG MAN. Well, what should prevent you ? 
You are young and handsome. 


PAPHNUTIUS. Where does she live ? 

YOUNG MAN. Over there. Her house is quite 
near this place. 

PAPHNUTIUS. That house ? 

YOUNG MAN. Yes, to the left of the statue. 

PAPHNUTIUS. I will go there. 

YOUNG MAN. If you like, we will come with you. 

PAPHNUTIUS. I thank you for the courtesy, but 
I would rather go alone. 

YOUNG MAN. We understand. Have you money 
in your purse, stranger ? Thais loves a handsome face, 
but she loves a full purse more. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Gendemen, I am rich. I have 
a rare present to offer her. 

YOUNG MAN. To our next meeting, then ! 
Farewell. May Thais be kind ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. Farewell. 


PAPHNUTIUS. Thais ! Thais ! 

THAIS. Who is there ? I do not know that voice. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Thais ! Your lover speaks ! 
Thais ! 

THAIS. Stranger, who are you ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, 
and come ! 

THAIS. Who are you ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. A man who loves you ! 


THAIS. And what do you want with me ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. I will show you. 

THAIS. You would be my lover ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. I am your lover, Thais, flame of the 
world ! 

THAIS. Whoever loves me is well paid. He receives 
as much as he gives. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Oh, Thais, Thais ! If you knew 
what a long and troublesome journey I have come to 
speak to you — to see your face ! 

THAIS. Well ? Have I refused to speak to you, or 
to show you my face ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. I cannot speak to you here. I must 
be with you alone. What I have to say is secret. The 
room must be secret iuo. 

THAIS. How would you like a bedchamber, fragrant 
with perfumes, adorned as for a marriage ? I have such a 
room. Look ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. Is there no room still more 
secret — a room that your lovers do not know ? 
Some room where you and I might hide from all the 
world ? 

THAIS. Yes, there is a room like that in this house. 
No one even knows that it exists except myself, and 

PAPHNUTIUS. God! What God ? 

THAIS. The true God. 

PAPHNUTIUS. You believe that He exists ? 

THAIS. I am a Christian. 


PAPHNUTIUS. And you believe that He knows 
what we do ? 

THAIS. I believe He knows everything. 

PAPHNUTIUS. What do you think, then ? That 
He is indifferent to the actions of the sinner, or that He 
reserves judgment ? 

THAIS. I suppose that the merits of each man are 
weighed in the balance, and that we shall be punished or 
rewarded according to our deeds. 

PAPHJNUTIUS. O Christ ! How wondrous is Thy 
patience ! How wondrous is Thy love ! Even when 
those who believe in Thee sin deliberately, Thou dost 
delay their destruction ! 

THAIS. Why do you tremble ? Why do you turn 
pale ? Why do you weep ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. I shudder at your presumption. 
I weep for your damnation. How, knowing what you 
know, can you destroy men in this manner and ruin so 
many souls, all precious and immortal ? 

THAIS. Your voice pierces my heart ! Strange 
lover — you are cruel. Pity me ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. Let us pity rather those souls 
whom you have deprived of the sight of God — 
of the God Whom you confess ! Oh, Thais, you have 
wilfully offended the divine Majesty. That condemns 

THAIS. What do you mean ? Why do you threaten 
me like this ? 


PAPHNUTIUS. Because the punishment of hell-fire 
ta you if you remain in sin. 

THAIS. Who are you, who rebuke me so sternly ? 
Oh, you have shaken me to the depths of my terrified 
heart ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. I would that you could be shaken 
with fear to your very bowels ! I would like to see your 
delicate body impregnated with terror in every vein, and 
every fibre, if that would keep you from yielding to the 
dangerous delights of the flesh. 

THAIS. And what zest for pleasure do you think is 
left now in a heart suddenly awakened to a consciousness 
of guilt ! Remorse has killed everything. 

PAPHNUTIUS. I long to see the thorns of vice cut 
away, and the choked-up fountain of your tears flowing 
once more. Tears of repentance are precious in the sight 
of God. 

THAIS. Oh, voice that promises mercy ! Do you 
believe, can you hope that one so vile as I, soiled 
by thousands and thousands of impurities, can make 
reparation, can ever by any manner of penance obtain 
pardon ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. Thais, no sin is so great, no 
crime so black, that it cannot be expiated by tears 
and penitence, provided they are followed up by 

THAIS. Show me, I beg you, my father, what I can 
do to be reconciled with Him I have offended. 


PAPHNUTIUS. Despise the world. Leave your 
dissolute lovers. 

THAIS. And afterwards ? What then ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. You must retire to some solitary 
place, where you may learn to know yourself and realize 
the enormity of your sins. 

THAIS. If you think this will save me, I will not 
delay a moment. 

PAPHNUTIUS. I have no doubt it will. 

THAIS. Yet give me a little time. I must collect the 
wealth that I have gained through the sins of my body — 
all the treasures I have kept too long. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Do not give them a moment's 
thought. There will be no lack of people to find them 
and make use of them. 

THAIS. I have another idea in my mind. I did not 
think of keeping this wealth or of giving it to my friends. 
Nor would I distribute it among the poor. The wages of 
sin are no material for good works. 

PAPHNUTIUS. You are right. What then do you 
propose to do with your possessions ? 

THAIS. Give them to the flames ! Burn them to 
ashes ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. For what reason ? 

THAIS. That they may no longer exist in the 
world. Each one was acquired at the cost of an injury 
to the goodness and beauty of the Creator. Let them 


PAPHNUTIUS. How you are changed ! Grace is 
on your lips ! Your eyes are calm, and impure passions 
no longer burn in them. Oh, miracle ! Is this Thais 
who was once so greedy for gold ? Is this Thais, who 
seeks so humbly the feet of God ? 

THAIS. God give me grace to change still more. 
My heart is changed, but this mortal substance — how 
shall it be changed ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. It is not difficult for the unchange- 
able substance to transform us. 

THAIS. Now I am going to carry out my plan. Fire 
shall destroy everything I have. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Go in peace. Then return to me 
here quickly. Do not delay ! I trust your resolution, 
and yet 

THAIS. You need not be afraid. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Thais, come back quickly ! God 
be with you ! 


THAIS. Come, my lovers ! Come, all my evil lovers ! 
Hasten, my lovers ! Your Thais calls you ! 

LOVERS. That is the voice of Thais. She calls us. 
Let us make haste. Let us make haste, for by delay we 
may offend her. 

THAIS. Come, lovers ! Run ! Hasten ! What 
makes you so slow ? Never has Thais been more 


impatient for your coming. Come nearer. I have 
something to tell you all. 

LOVERS. Oh, Thais, what is the meaning of this 
pile of faggots ? Why are you throwing all those beauti- 
ful and precious treasures on the pile ? 

THAIS. You cannot guess ? You do not know why 
I have built this fire ? 

LO vTRS. We are amazed. We wonder greatly what 
is the meaning of it and of your strange looks. 

THAIS. You would like me to tell you, evil lovers ? 

LOVERS. We long to hear. 

THAIS. Look, then ! 

LOVERS. Stop, Thais ! What are you doing ? Are 
you mad ? 

THAIS. I am not mad. For the first time I am sane, 
and I rejoice ! 

LOVERS. To waste these pounds of gold, and all the 
other treasure ! Oh, Thais, you have lost your senses ! 
These are beautiful things, precious things, and you burn 
them ! 

THAIS. All these things I have extorted from you 
as the price of shameful deeds. I burn them to destroy 
all hope in you that I shall ever again turn to your love. 
And now I leave you. 

LOVERS. Wait, Thais. Oh wait a little, and tell 
us what has changed you ! 

THAIS. I will not stay. I will not tell you anything. 
To talk with you has become loathsome. 


LOVERS. What have we done to deserve this scorn 
and contempt ? Can you accuse us of being un- 
faithful ? What wrong have we done ? We have 
always sought to satisfy your desires. And now you 
show us this bitter hatred ! Unjust woman, what have 
we done ? 

THAIS. Leave me, or let me leave you. Do not 
touch me. You can tear my garments, but you shall not 
touch me. 

LOVERS. Cruel Thais, speak to us ! Before you go, 
speak to us ! 

THAIS. I have sinned with you. But now 
is the end of sin, dnd all our wild pleasures are 

LOVERS. Thais, do not leave us ! Thais, where are 
you going ? 

THAIS. Where none of you will ever see me 
again ! 

LOVERS. What monstrous thing is this ? Thais, 
glory of our land, is changed ! Thais, our delight, who 
loved riches and power and luxury — Thais, who gave 
herself up to pleasure day and night, has destroyed past 
remedy gold and gems that had no price ! What 
monstrous thing is this ? Thais, the very flower of 
love, insults her lovers and scorns their gifts. Thais, 
whose boast it was that whoever loved her should enjoy 
her love ! What monstrous thing is this ? Thais ! 
Thais ! this is a thing not to be believed. 




THAIS. Paphnutius, my father, I am ready now to 
obey you, command what you will. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Thais, I have been uneasy during 
your absence. I feared you had been caught in the 
wond's snare. I feared you would not return. 

THAIS. You need not have been afraid. The world 
does not tempt me now. My possessions are ashes. I 
have publicly renounced my lovers. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Oh, happy guilt that has brought 
such happy penitence ! Since you have renounced your 
earthly lovers, you can now be joined to your Heavenly 

THAIS. It is for you to show me the way. Be a 
lantern to me, for all is obscure night. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Trust me, daughter. Follow 

THAIS. I can follow you with my feet. Would that 
I could follow you with my deeds ! 


THAIS. Oh, I am weary ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. Courage ! Here is the monastery 
where a famous community of holy virgins live. I am 
anxious for you to pass the time of penance here if you 
will consent. 


THAIS. I do not resist. I wish to obey you. I trust 

PAPHNUTIUS. I will go in, and persuade the 
Abbess who is the head of the community to receive 

THAIS. And what shall I do meanwhile ? Do not 
leave me alone. 

PAPHNUTIUS. You shall come with me. But 
look ! The Abbess has come out to meet us. I wonder 
who can have told her so promptly of our arrival. 

THAIS. Rumour, Father Paphnutius. Rumour 
never delays. 


PAPHNUTIUS. You come opportunely, illustrious 
Abbess. I was just seeking you. 

ABBESS. You are most welcome, venerated Father 
Paphnutius. Blessed is your visit, beloved of the Most 

PAPHNUTIUS. May the grace of Him Who is 
Father of all pour into your heart the beatitude of ever- 
lasting peace ! 

ABBESS. And what has brought your holiness to my 
humble dwelling ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. I need your help. 

ABBESS. Speak but the word. You will find me eager 
to do all in my power to carry out your wishes. 


PAPHNUTIUS. Oh, Abbess, I have brought you a 
little wild gazelle who has been snatched half dead from 
the jaws of wolves. Show it compassion, nurse it with 
all your tenderness, until it has shed its rough goatskin 
and put on the soft fleece of a lamb. 

ABBESS. Explain yourself further. 

PAPHNUTIUS. You see this woman. From her 
youth she has led the life of a harlot. She has given herself 
up to base pleasures 

ABBESS. What misery! 

PAPHNUTIUS. She cannot offer the excuse that 
she was a Pagan to whom such pleasures bring no remorse 
of conscience. She wore the baptismal robes of a child of 
God when she gave herself to the flames of profane love. 
She was not tempted. She chose this evil life. She 
was ruined by her own will. 

ABBESS. She is the more unfortunate. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Yet such is the power of Christ, 
that at His word, of which my poor mouth was the 
instrument, she has fled from the surroundings which 
were her damnation. Obedient as a child, she has 
followed me. She has abandoned lust and ease and idle 
luxury. She is resolved to live chastely. 

ABBESS. Glory to the Author of the marvellous 
change ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. Amen. But since the maladies of 
the soul, like those of the body, need physic for their 


cure, we must minister to this soul diseased by years of 
lust. It must be removed from the foul breath of the 
world. A narrow cell, solitude, silence — these must be 
her lot henceforth. She must learn to know herself and 
her sins. 

ABBESS. You are right. Such a penance is 

PAPHNUTIUS. Will you give orders for a little 
cell to be made ready as soon as possible ? 

ABBESS. Yes, my father. It shall be done as quickly 
as we can. 

PAPHNUTIUS. There must be no entrance, no 
opening of any kind, except a small window through 
which she can receive the food that will be brought 
her on certain days at certain fixed hours. A pound 
of bread, and water according to her need. 

ABBESS. Forgive me, dear father in God, but I fear 
she will not be able to endure such a rigorous life. The 
soul may be willing, but that fastidious mind, that delicate 
body used to luxury, how can we expect them to 
submit ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. Have no fear. We know that 
grave sin demands a grave remedy. 

ABBESS. That is true, yet are we not told also to 
hasten slowly ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. Good mother, I am already weary 
of delay. What if her lovers should pursue her ? What 


if she be drawn back into the abyss ? I am impatient to 
see her enclosed. 

ABBESS. Nothing stands in the way of your enclosing 
her now. The cell which you told us to prepare is 

PAPHNUTIUS. Then enter, Thais ! This is just 
such a refuge as we spoke of on our journey. It is the 
very place for you. There is room and more than room 
here for you to weep over your sins. 

THAIS. How small it is ! How dark ! How can a 
delicate woman live in such a place ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. You are not pleased with your new 
dwelling ! You shudder at the thought of entering ! 
Oh, Thais, have you not wandered long enough without 
restraint ? Is it not right that you should now be con- 
fined in this narrow, solitary cell, where you will find 
true freedom ? 

THAIS. I have been so long accustomed to pleasure 
and distraction. My mind is still a slave to the 

PAPHNUTIUS. The more need to rein it, to disci- 
pline it, until it ceases to rebel. 

THAIS. I do not rebel — but my weakness revolts 
against one thing here. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Of what do you speak? 

THAIS. I am ashamed to say. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Speak, Thais! Be ashamed of 
nothing but your sins. 


THAIS. Good father, what could be more repugnant 
than to have to attend to all the needs of the body in this 
one litde room. ... It will soon be uninhabitable. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Fear the cruel punishments of the 
soul, and cease to dread transitory evils. 

THAIS. My weakness makes me shudder. 

PAPHNUTIUS. The sweetness of your guilty 
pleasures was far more bitter and foul. 

THAIS. I know it is just. What grieves me most is 
that I shall not have one clean sweet spot in which to call 
upon the sweet name of God. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Have a care, Thais, or your con- 
fidence may become presumption. Should polluted lips 
utter so easily the name of the unpolluted Godhead ? 

THAIS. Oh, how can I hope for pardon ! Who will 
pity me — who save me ! What shall I do if I am for- 
bidden to invoke Him against Whom only I have sinned ! 
To whom should I pray if not to Him. 

PAPHNUTIUS. You must indeed pray to Him, 
but with tears, not with words. Let not a tinkling voice, 
but the mighty roar of a contrite heart sound in the ear 
of God. 

THAIS. I desire His pardon. Surely I may ask 
for it ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. Oh, Thais, the more perfecdy you 
humble yourself, the more swifdy you will win it ! Let 
your heart be all prayer, but let your lips say only tliis : 
" O God Who made me, pity me ! " 


THAIS. O God, Who made mc. pity me ! He 
alone can save mc from defeat in this hard struggle ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. Fight manfully, and you will gain 
a glorious victory. 

Til \1>. I; ia jrour p.irt to pray for me ! Pray I may 
earn the victor's palm. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Vou need not remind mc. 

THAIS. Give me some hope ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. Courage ! The palm will soon be 
in this humble hand. It is time for me to return to the 
desert I owe a duty to my dear disciples. I know their 
hearts are torn by my absence. Yes. I must go. Venerable 
Abbess, I trust this cap; our charity and tenderness. 

I beg you to take the best care of her. Sustain her delicate 
body with necessaries. Refresh her >nu\ with the luxuries 
of divine knowledge. 

ABBESS. Have no anxiety about her, for I will cherish 
her with a mother's love and tendenu 

PAPHNUTIUS. I go then. 

ABBESS. In peace. 


DISCIPLES. Who knocks there ? 
PAPHNUTIUS. It is I— your father. 
DISCIPLES. It is the voice of our father Paphnutius ! 
PAPHNUTIUS. Unbolt the door. 


DISCIPLE. Good father, welcome. 

ALL. Welcome, father ! Welcome ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. A blessing on you all ! 

DISCIPLE. You have given us great uneasiness by 
your long absence. 

PAPHNUTIUS. It has been fruitful. 

DISCIPLE. Your mission has succeeded ? Come, 
tell us what has happened to Thais. 

PAPHNUTIUS. All that I wished. 

DISCIPLE. She has abandoned her evil life ? 


DISCIPLE. Where is she living now ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. She weeps over her sins in a little 

DISCIPLES. Praise be to the Supreme Trinity ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. A little narrow cell, no wider than 
a grave. Blessed be His Terrible Name now and for 



PAPHNUTIUS. Three years of her penance are 
over, and I cannot tell whether her sorrow has found 
favour with God. For some reason He will not en- 
lighten me. I know what I will do. I will go to my 
brother Antony and beg him to intercede for me. God 
will make the truth known to him. 



ANTONY. Who comes this way ? By his dress it 
is some brother-dweller in the desert. My old eyes do 
not recognize you yet, friend. Come nearer. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Brother Antony ! Do you not know 
me ? 

ANTONY. This is joy indeed ! What pleasures God 
sends us, when we resign ourselves to have none ! I did 
not think to see my brother Paphnutius again in this 
world. Is it indeed you, brother ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. Yes, it is I. 

ANTONY. You are welcome, very welcome. Your 
coming gives me great joy. 

PAPHNUTIUS. I am no less rejoiced to see 

ANTONY. But what is the cause ? What has brought 
Paphnutius from his solitary retreat ? He is not sick, I 
trust ? He has not come to old Antony for healing ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. No, I am in good health. 

ANTONY. That's well ! I am glad of it. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Brother Antony, it is three years 
since my peace was broken and disturbed by the 
persistent vision of a soul in peril. I heard a voice calling 
me night and day. But I stopped my ears — fearing my 
weakness. I thought " She calls me to ruin me." 
" No, no," the voice said. " I call you to save me." 

ANTONY. A woman's voice ! 


PAPHNUTIUS. Before my vision it was well 
known to us all that in the great town on the edge of the 
desert there was a harlot called Thais, through whom 
many were destroyed body and soul. 

ANTONY. It was she who called you ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. Brother Antony, it was God who 
called me. My disciples opposed me ; nevertheless I 
went to the town to see Thais and wresde with the demon. 

ANTONY. A perilous enterprise. 

PAPHNUTIUS. I went to her in the disguise of a 
lover, and began by flattering her with sweet words. 
Then I threw off the mask and brought terror to her soul 
with bitter reproaches and threats of God's punishment. 

ANTONY. A prudent course. Hard words are 
necessary when natures have grown soft and can no 
longer distinguish between good and evil. 

PAPHNUTIUS. I was disarmed by her docility. 
Truly, brother Antony, my heart melted like wax when 
she spurned her ill-gotten wealth and abandoned her 

ANTONY. But you hid your tenderness ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. Yes, Brother Antony. 

ANTONY. What followed ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. She chose to live in chastity. She 
consented to be enclosed in a narrow cell. She accepted 
her penance with sweetness and humility. 

ANTONY. I am rejoiced by what you have told me ! 
All the blood in my old veins exults and rejoices ! 


PAPHNUTIUS. That is because you are a saint. 

ANTONY. Brother, you cannot mean that you are 
sad ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. I rejoice immeasurably in her con- 
version. Yet at times I am uneasy. I fear that the 
penance may have been too long and severe for a woman 
of such delicate frame. 

ANTONY. That does you no wrong. Where true 
love is, loving compassion is not wanting. 

PAPHNUTIUS. I came to beg yours for Thais. 
Of your charity give me your prayers. I beg you and 
your disciples to join with me in praying for a sign. Let 
us persevere in prayer until it is shown us from heaven 
that the penitent's tears have moved the divine mercy to 

ANTONY. Brother Paphnutius, I have never granted 
a request more gladly. Come, we will gather together 
my disciples. 

PAPHNUTIUS. I know that God will listen to his 
good servant Antony. 


ANTONY. Thanks be to God ! The gospel's 
promise is fulfilled in us ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. What promise, blessed Antony ? 

ANTONY. Those who unite in prayer can obtain 
whatever they desire. 



PAPHNUTIUS. What miracle has happened? 
What is it ? 

ANTONY. My disciple Paul has had a vision. 

PAPHNUTIUS. What vision ? Oh, call him ! 

ANTONY. He is here. Paul, my son, tell our 
brother, Paphnutius, the wonders you have seen. 

PAUL. Father, I saw in my vision a splendid bed. 
It was adorned with white hangings and coverings, and 
a crown was laid on it, and round it were four radiant 
virgins. They stood there as if they were guarding the 
crown. There was a great brightness round the bed, 
and a multitude of angels. I, seeing this wonderful and 
joyful sight, cried out, " This glory must be for my master 
and father Antony ! " 

ANTONY. Son, did you not know Antony was 
unworthy of such honour ? 

PAUL. But a divine voice answered me, saying, 
" This glory is prepared, not, as you think, for Antony, 
but for the harlot, Thais ! " 

PAPHNUTIUS. O sweet Christ ! How shall I praise 
Thee for so lovingly sending comfort to my sad heart ? 

ANTONY. He is worthy to be praised. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Then farewell, Brother Antony. 
I must go at once to my captive. 

ANTONY. You must indeed. It is time her valiant 
penance ended. You should assure her that her pardon 
is complete ; you should fill her with hope, and speak 
to her only of the beatitude in store for her. 


PAPHNUTIUS. Your blessing. 


PAPHNUTIUS. Thais, my little daughter ! Thais ! 
Open the window and let me see you. 

THAIS. Who speaks? 

PAPHNUTIUS. Paphnutius. 

THAIS. Why should you visit a poor sinner ? Why 
should I be given this great joy and happiness ? 

PAPHNUTIUS. These years that I have been absent 
from you in the body have been weary to me too. I have 
thought of you night and day. I have yearned for your 

THAIS. I never doubted that. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Tell me how things are with you. 
How have you lived here ? What have you been doing ? 

THAIS. Nothing worth the telling ! I have nothing 
to offer God. 

PAPHNUTIUS. The offering He loves best is a 
humble spirit. 

THAIS. All I have done is to gather up the many sins 
on my conscience into a mighty bundle and keep them 
always in mind. All day I have sat gazing towards the 
East, saying only this one prayer : " O God Who made 
me, pity me ! " If my bodily senses have always been 
conscious of the offensiveness of this place, my heart's 
eyes have never been blind to the dreadfulness of hell. 


PAPHNUTIUS. Your great penitence has won a 
great forgiveness. Yet God has not pardoned you for 
your valiant expiation so much as for the love with which 
you have given yourself to Christ. 

THAIS. Can that be true ? Would that it were ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. Give me your hand. Let me bring 
you out of your cell to prove you are forgiven. 

THAIS. No, father, leave me here. This place with 
all its uncleanness is best for me. 

PAPHNUTIUS. The time has come for you to cast 
away your fear, and hope for life ! God wishes your 
penance to end. 

THAIS. Let the angels praise Him ! He has not 
despised the love of a humble sinner. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Thais, would you rejoice if now 
you were called upon to lay aside this body ? 

THAIS. Oh, father, my soul longs to escape from 
this earth. 

PAPHNUTIUS. Thais, you have finished your 
course here. In fifteen days you will, by God's grace, 
pass straight to Paradise. 

THAIS. To Paradise ! I should be happy if I might 
be spared hell's torments and be mercifully cleansed in 
a gentle fire until my spirit is fit for the eternal 

PAPHNUTIUS. Grace is the free gift of God and 
does not depend on our merits. If it did, it could not be 
called grace. 


THAIS. For this let the choirs of heaven praise Him, 
and all the little twigs and fresh green leaves on earth, 
all animals, and the great waters. He is patient with us 
when we fall ! He is generous in His gifts when we 

PAPHNUTIUS. He loves to be merciful. From all 
eternity He has preferred pardon to punishment. 


THAIS. Holy father, do not leave me. Be near to 
comfort me in this hour of my death. 

PAPHNUTIUS. I will not leave you, Thais, until 
your soul has taken flight to the stars, and I have buried 
your body. 

THAIS. I feel the end is near. Brother, do not leave 
me ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. Now is the time to pray. 

THAIS. O God Who made me, pity me ! Grant that 
the soul which Thou didst breathe into me may now 
happily return to Thee. O God Who made me, pity me ! 

PAPHNUTIUS. Thais ! Thais ! Oh, loving humble 
spirit, pass to thy glory ! . . . Angels lead her into 
Paradise ! . . . O uncreated Beauty, existing in Truth 
without material form, grant that the divers parts of this 
human body now to be dissolved may return to their 
original elements ! Grant that the soul, given from on 
high, may soar into light and joy, and that the body may 


be cherished peacefully in the soft lap of the earth until 
that day when, the ashes being brought together again, 
and the life-giving sap restored to the veins, this same 
Thais may rise again, a perfect human being as before, 
and take her place among the glorious white flock who 
shall be led into the joy of eternity ! Grant this, O 
Thou Who alone art what Thou art — Who livest and 
reignest and art glorious in the Unity and perfect Trinity 
through infinite ages ! 



The martyrdom of the holy virgins Faith, Hope, and 
Charity, who are put to the torture by the Emperor 
Hadrian and slain in the presence of their mother 
Sapientia, she encouraging them by her admonitions to 
bear their sufferings. After their death the holy mother 
recovers the bodies of her children, embalms them with 
spices, and buries them with honour about five miles 
outside the city of Rome. 

Forty days later the spirit of Sapientia takes its flight 
to heaven while she is still praying by her children's 











ANTIOCHUS. My Lord Emperor, what desire has 
your servant but to see you powerful and prosperous ? 
What ambition apart from the welfare and peace and 
greatness of the state you rule ? So when I discover 
anything that threatens the commonwealth or your peace 
of mind I try to crush it before it has taken root. 

HADRIAN. In this you show discretion, Antiochus. 
Our prosperity means your advantage. Witness the 
honours that we never tire of heaping on you. 

ANTIOCHUS. Your Grace's welfare is so dear to 
me that I do not seek to disguise what is hostile to your 
interests, but immediately bring it to your notice and 
denounce it ! 

HADRIAN. Do you praise yourself for this ? If you 
withheld such information you would be guilty of treason 
to our Imperial Majesty. 

ANTIOCHUS. I have never been disloyal. 

HADRIAN. I do not question it. Come, if you have 
discovered some new danger, make it known to us. 


ANTIOCHUS. A certain alien woman has recently 
come to this city with her three children. 

HADRIAN. Of what sex are the children ? 

ANTIOCHUS. They are all girls. 

HADRIAN. And you think that a handful of women 
threaten danger to the state ? 

ANTIOCHUS. I do, and very grave danger. 

HADRIAN. Of what kind? 

ANTIOCHUS. A disturbance of the peace. 


ANTIOCHUS. What disturbs the peace and harmony 
of states more than religious differences ? 

HADRIAN. I grant you that. The whole Roman 
Empire witnesses to the serious troubles they can cause. 
The body politic is infected by the corpses of slaughtered 

ANTIOCHUS. This woman of whom I speak is 
u rging the people of this country to abandon the religion 
of their fathers and embrace the Christian faith. 

HADRIAN. But have her words any effect ? 

ANTIOCHUS. Indeed they have. Our wives hate 
and scorn us to such an extent that they will not deign to 
eat with us, still less share our beds. 

HADRIAN. This is a real danger, I admit. 

ANTIOCHUS. You must protect yourself. 

HADRIAN. That stands to reason. Let the woman 
be brought before me, and I will examine her and see what 
can be done. 


ANTIOCHUS. You wish me to summon her ? 
HADRIAN. I have said it. 


ANTIOCHUS. Foreign woman, what is your name ? 

SAPIENTIA. Sapientia. 

ANTIOCHUS. The Emperor Hadrian orders you 
to present yourself at the palace. 

SAPIENTIA. I am not afraid to go. I have a noble 
escort in my daughters. Nor do I tremble at the thought 
of meeting your scowling Emperor face to face. 

ANTIOCHUS. It is the way of you Christian rabble 
to defy authority. 

SAPIENTIA. We acknowledge the authority of Him 
Who rules the world ; we know that He will not let His 
subjects be vanquished. 

ANTIOCHUS. Not so much talk. To the palace. 

SAPIENTIA. Go before us and show the way. We 
will follow you. 


ANTIOCHUS. That is the Emperor you see there, 
seated on his throne. Be careful what you say to him. 

SAPIENTIA. The word of Christ forbids us to take 
thought as to what we ought to say. His wisdom is 
sufficient for us. 

HADRIAN. Are you there, Antiochus ? 


ANTIOCHUS. At your service, my lord. 
HADRIAN. Are these the women whom you have 
arrested on account of their Christian opinions ? 

ANTIOCHUS. Yes, lord. 

HADRIAN. I am amazed at their beauty ; I cannot 
help admiring their noble and dignified manner. 

ANTIOCHUS. Waste no time in admiring them, my 
lord. Make them worship the gods. 

HADRIAN. It would be wiser to ask it as a favour to 
me at first. Then they may yield. 

ANTIOCHUS. That may be best. This frail sex 
is easily moved by flattery. 

HADRIAN. Noble matron, if you desire to enjoy 
my friendship, I ask you in all gentleness to join me in 
an act of worship of the gods. 

SAPIENTIA. We have no desire for your friendship. 
And we refuse to worship your gods. 

HADRIAN. You will try in vain to rouse my anger. 
I feel no indignation against you. I appeal to you and 
your daughters as lovingly as if I were their own father. 

SAPIENTIA. My children are not to be cozened by 
such diabolical flattery. They scorn it as I do. 

FAITH. Yes, and laugh at it in our hearts. 

ANTIOCHUS. What are you muttering there ? 

SAPIENTIA. I was speaking to my daughters. 

HADRIAN. I judge from appearances that you are 
of noble race, but I would know more — to what country 
and family you belong, and your name. 


SAPIENTIA. Although we take no pride in it, I come 
of noble stock. 

HADRIAN. That is easy to believe. 

SAPIENTIA. My parents were princes of Greece, 
and I am called Sapientia. 

HADRIAN. The splendour of your ancestry is 
blazoned in your face, and the wisdom of your name 
sparkles on your lips. 

SAPIENTIA. You need not waste your breath in 
flattering us. We are not to be conquered by fair speeches. 

HADRIAN. Why have you left your own people and 
come to live here ? 

SAPIENTIA. For no other reason than that we 
wished to know the truth. I came to learn more of the 
faith which you persecute, and to consecrate my daughters 
to Christ. 

HADRIAN. Tell me their names. 

SAPIENTIA. The eldest is called Faith, the second 
Hope, the youngest Charity. 

HADRIAN. And how old are they ? 

SAPIENTIA. What do you say, children ? Shall I 
puzzle his dull brain with some problems in arithmetic ? 

FAITH. Do, mother. It will give us joy to hear you. 

SAPIENTIA. As you wish to know the ages of my 
children, O Emperor, Charity has lived a diminished 
evenly even number of years ; Hope a number also 
diminished, but evenly uneven ; and Faith an augmented 
number, unevenly even. 


HADRIAN. Your answer leaves me in ignorance. 

SAPIENTIA. That is not surprising, since not one 
number, but many, come under this definition. 

HADRIAN. Explain more clearly, otherwise how can 
I follow you ? 

SAPIENTIA. Charity has now completed two 
olympiads, Hope two lustres, and Faith three olympiads. 

HADRIAN. I am curious to know why the number 
" 8," which is two olympiads, and the number " 10," 
which is two lustres, are called " diminished " ; also why 
the number " 12," which is made up of three olympiads, 
is said to be " augmented." 

SAPIENTIA, Every number is said to be " dimin- 
ished " the parts of which when added together give a 
sum which is less than the number of which they are 
parts. Such a number is 8. For the half of 8 is 4, the 
quarter of 8 is 2, and the eighth of 8 is 1 ; and these 
added together give 7. It is the same with 10. Its half is 
5, its fifth part 2, its tenth part 1, and these added 
together give 8. On the other hand, a number is said to 
be " augmented " when its parts added together exceed 
it. Such, for instance, is 12. Its half is 6, its third 4, 
its fourth 3, its sixth 2, its twelfth 1, and the sum of these 
figures 16. And in accordance with the principle which 
decrees that between all excesses shall rule the exquisite 
proportion of the mean, that number is called " perfect " 
the sum of the parts of which is equal to its whole. Such 
a number is 6, whose parts — a third, a half, and a sixth — 


added together, come to 6. For the same reason 28, 
496, and 8000 are called " perfect." 

HADRIAN. And what of the other numbers ? 

SAPIENTIA. They are all either augmented or 

HADRIAN. And that " evenly even " number of 
which you spoke ? 

SAPIENTIA. That is one which can be divided into 
two equal parts, and these parts again into two equal 
parts, and so on in succession until we come to indivisible 
unity: 8 and 16 and all numbers obtained by doubling 
them are examples. 

HADRIAN. Continue. We have not heard yet of 
the " evenly uneven " number. 

SAPIENTIA. One which can be divided by two, 
but the parts of which after that are indivisible : 10 is 
such a number, and all others obtained by doubling odd 
numbers. They differ from the " evenly even " numbers 
because in them only the minor term can be divided, 
whereas in the " evenly even " the major term is also 
capable of division. In the first type, too, all the parts 
are evenly even in name and in quantity, whereas in the 
second type when the division is even the quotient is 
uneven, and vice versa. 

HADRIAN. I am not familiar with these terms, and 
divisors and quotients alike mean nothing to me.* 

* It has been my duty to preserve this rather tire- 
some numerical discourse, which no doubt Koswitha 

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HADRIAN. I had my reasons for enduring your 
lecture with patience. I hope to persuade you to submit. 

SAPIENTIA. To what? 

HADRIAN. To worshipping the gods. 

SAPIENTIA. That we can never do. 

HADRIAN. Take warning. If you are obstinate, you 
will be put to the torture. 

SAPIENTIA. It is in your power to kill the body, 
but you will not succeed in harming the soul. 

ANTIOCHUS. The day has passed, and the night is 
falling. This is no time to argue. Supper is ready. 

HADRIAN. Let these women be taken to the prison 
near our palace, and give them three days to reflect. 

ANTIOCHUS. Soldiers, see that these women are 
well guarded and given no chance of escape. 


SAPIENTIA. Oh, my dearest ones ! My beloved 
children ! Do not let this narrow prison sadden you. 
Do not be frightened by the threat of sufferings to come. 

FAITH. Our weak bodies may dread the torture, but 
our souls look forward with joy to the reward. 

SAPIENTIA. You are only children, but your under- 
standing is ripe and strong. It will triumph over your 
tender years. 

HOPE. You must help us with your prayers. Then 
we shall conquer. 


SAPIENTIA. This I pray without ceasing, this I 
implore — that you may stand firm in the faith which 
I instilled into you while you were infants at my 

CHARITY. Can we forget what we learned there ? 

SAPIENTIA. I gave you milk. I nourished and 
cherished you, that I might wed you to a heavenly bride- 
groom, not to an earthly one. I trusted that for your 
dear sakes I might be deemed worthy of being received 
into the family of the Eternal King. 

FAITH. For His love we are all ready to die. 

SAPIENTIA. Oh, children, your words are sweeter 
to me than nectar ! 

HOPE. When we come before the tribunal you will 
see what courage our love will give us. 

SAPIENTIA. Your mother will be crowned by your 
virginity and glorified by your martyrdom. 

CHARITY. Let us go hand in hand to the tyrant and 
make him feel ashamed. 

SAPIENTIA. We must wait till the hour comes 
when we are summoned. 

FAITH. We chafe at the delay, but we must be 


HADRIAN. Antiochus, bring the Greek prisoners 
before us. 


ANTIOCHUS. Step forward, Sapientia. The Em- 
peror has asked for you and your daughters. 

SAPIENTIA. Walk with me bravely, children, and 
persevere with one mind in the faith. Think only of the 
happiness before you — of the martyr's palm. 

HOPE. We are ready. And He is with us for Whose 
love we arc to be led to death. 

HADRIAN. The three days' respite which of our 
clemency we granted you is over. If you have profited 
by it, obey our commands. 

SAPIENTIA. We have profited by it. It has 
strengthened our determination not to yield. 

ANTIOCHUS. It is beneath your dignity to bandy 
words with this obstinate woman. Have you not had 
enough of her insolence and presumption ? 

HADRIAN. Am I to send her away unpunished ? 

ANTIOCHUS. By no means. 

HADRIAN. What then ? 

ANTIOCHUS. Address yourself to the little girls. 
If they defy you, do not spare them because of their 
tender years, but have them put to death. That will 
teach their obstinate mother a lesson. 

HADRIAN. I will do as you advise. 

ANTIOCHUS. This way you will succeed. 

HADRIAN. Faith, there is the venerated statue of 
the great Diana. Carry a libation to the holy goddess, 
and you will win her favour. 

FAITH. What a foolish man the Emperor must be 
to give such an order ! 


HADRIAN. What are you muttering there ? Behave 
yourself and do not laugh. 

FAITH. How can I help laughing ? Such a lack of 
wisdom is ludicrous. 

HADRIAN. Whose lack of wisdom? 

FAITH. Why, yours ! 

ANTIOCHUS. You dare to speak to the Emperor so ! 

FAITH. I speak the truth. 

ANTIOCHUS. This is not to be endured ! 

FAITH. What is it but folly to tell us to insult the 
Creator of the world and worship a bit of metal ! 

ANTIOCHUS. This girl is crazy — a raving lunatic ! 
She calls the ruler of the world a fool ! 

FAITH. I have said it, and I am ready to repeat it. 
I shall not take back my words as long as I live. 

ANTIOCHUS. That will not be long. You deserve 
to die at once for such impudence. 

FAITH. I wish for nothing better than death in 

HADRIAN. Enough of this ! Let ten centurions 
take turns in flaying her with scourges. 

ANTIOCHUS. She deserves it. 

HADRIAN. Most valiant centurions, approach, and 
wipe out the insult which has been offered us. 
ANTIOCHUS. That is the way. 

HADRIAN. Ask her now, Antiochus, if she will 

ANTIOCHUS. Faith, will you now withdraw your 


insults to the Imperial Majesty, and promise not to 
repeat them ? 

FAITH. Why now? 

ANTIOCHUS. The scourging should have brought 
you to your senses. 

FAITH. These whips cannot silence me, as they do 
not hurt at all. 

ANTIOCHUS. Cursed obstinacy ! Was there ever 
such insolence ? 

HADRIAN. Although her body weakens under the 
chastisement, her spirit is still swollen with pride. 

FAITH. Hadrian, you are wrong. It is not I who 
am weakening, but your executioners. They sweat and 
faint with fatigue. 

HADRIAN. Antiochus, tell them to cut the nipples 
off her breasts. The shame will cow her. 

ANTIOCHUS. I care not about the means, so long 
as she is forced to yield. 

FAITH. You have wounded my pure breast, but you 
have not hurt me. And look ! Instead of blood a stream 
of milk gushes from my wounds. 

HADRIAN. Put her on a gridiron, and let fire be 
placed beneath so that she may be roasted to death. 

ANTIOCHUS. She deserves a terrible death for her 
boldness in defying you. 

FAITH. All you do to cause me suffering is a source 
of bliss to me. I am as happy on this gridiron as if it 
were a little boat at sea ! 


HADRIAN. Bring a brazier full of pitch and wax, 
and place it on the fire. Then fling this rebellious girl 
into the boiling liquid. 

FAITH. I will leap into it joyfully of my own 

HADRIAN. So be it. 

FAITH. I laugh at your threats. Look ! Am I hurt ? 
I am swimming merrily in the boiling pitch. Its fierce 
heat seems as cool to me as the morning dew. 

HADRIAN. Antiochus, what can we do with her ? 

ANTIOCHUS. She must not escape. 

HADRIAN. She shall be beheaded. 

ANTIOCHUS. That seems the only way of con- 
quering her. 

FAITH. Now let my soul rejoice and exult in the 

SAPIENTIA. O Christ, invincible Conqueror of 
Satan, give my child, Faith, endurance to the end ! 

FAITH. Holy and dear mother, say a last farewell 
to your daughter. Kiss your firstborn, but do not mourn 
for me, for my hands are outstretched to the reward of 

SAPIENTIA. Oh, my daughter, my darling dear, 
I am not dismayed — I am not distressed ! I bid you fare- 
well rejoicing. I kiss your mouth and eyes, weeping for 
joy. My only prayer is that beneath the executioner's 
sword you may keep the mystery of your name inviolate. 

FAITH. Oh, my sisters, born of the same womb, 


give me the kiss of peace, and prepare yourselves for the 
struggle ! 

HOPE. Help us with your prayers. Pray with all 
your might that we may be found worthy to follow in 
your footsteps. 

FAITH. Listen to the words of our holy mother. She 
has always taught us to despise the things of earth that we 
may gain those which are eternal. 

CHARITY. We shall obey her in everything. We 
want to be worthy of eternal joy. 

FAITH. Come, executioner, do your duty, and put 
an end to my life. 

SAPIENTIA. I embrace the severed head of my dead 
child, and as I cover it with kisses I praise Thee, O Christ, 
Who hast given the victory to a little maid. 

HADRIAN. Hope, listen to me. Believe me, I advise 
you with fatherly affection. 

HOPE. What advice do you give me ? 

HADRIAN. I beg you not to imitate your mis- 
guided sister. I would not have you undergo the same 

HOPE. Would that I were worthy to imitate her 
sufferings, and so win a reward like hers ! 

HADRIAN. Do not harden your young heart, but 
give way and burn incense before great Diana. Then I 
will adopt you as my own child, and love you most 

HOPE. I should not care to have you for a father, 


and I want no favours from you. You deceive yourself 
with vain hopes if you suppose that I shall submit. 

HADRIAN. Be more careful in your speech or you 
will make me angry. 

HOPE. Be angry. What is it to me ? 

ANTIOCHUS. I am amazed, Augustus, that you 
should tolerate for a moment such insolence from a pert 
little child ! I boil with indignation that she should be 
allowed such licence. 

HADRIAN. I wished to be merciful to her youth, 
but I can no longer be indulgent. She shall be punished 
as she deserves. 

ANTIOCHUS. I wish that were possible. 

HADRIAN. Come, lictors, and scourge this little 
rebel to death with your heaviest rods. 

ANTIOCHUS. She deserves to feel the full weight 
of your anger, as she has mocked your gracious clemency. 

HOPE. Here is the only clemency for which I long — 
here the only mercy I crave. 

ANTIOCHUS. Sapientia, what are you murmuring 
there, standing with uplifted eyes by the body of your 
dead child ? 

SAPIENTIA. I am imploring Almighty God to give 
Hope the same firm courage that He gave Faith. 

HOPE. Oh, mother, mother ! How wonderful are 
your prayers ! Even as you prayed the uplifted hands of 
the panting executioners became powerless. I have not 
felt a twinge of pain. 


HADRIAN. So you do not mind scourging ! We will 
try some sharper torture. 

HOPE. The most savage and deadly you can invent ! 
The more cruelty you show the greater will be your 

HADRIAN. Let her be suspended in the air, and 
lacerated with nails until her bowels gush forth, and the 
skin is stripped from her bones. Break her to pieces 
limb by limb. 

ANTIOCHUS. That order is worthy of an emperor. 
The punishment fits the crime. 

HOPE. Oh, Antiochus, you are as crafty as a fox, but 
you flatter with the cunning of a chameleon. 

ANTIOCHUS. Be quiet, you wretch ! I thank the 
gods you will soon not have a mouth to prattle with. 

HOPE. It will not be as you hope. Both you and your 
master will be put to confusion. 

HADRIAN. What is this strange sweetness in the 
air ? If I am not mistaken a marvellous perfume fills the 

HOPE. O Emperor, the torn shreds of my flesh are 
giving forth a heavenly fragrance to make you admit 
that you have no power to hurt me by torture ! 

HADRIAN. Antiochus, advise me. 

ANTIOCHUS. We must think of some other 

HADRIAN. Put in the brazier a vessel full of oil and 
wax and pitch. Bind her and throw her in. 


ANTIOCHUS. Yes, she will not find it so easy to 
escape from Vulcan. 

HOPE. Christ has before now made fire grow mild 
and change its nature. 

HADRIAN. Antiochus, what is that sound ? I seem 
to hear a noise like that of rushing waters. 

ANTIOCHUS. My lord ! My lord ! 

HADRIAN. What has happened ? 

ANTIOCHUS. The boiling fire has burst the 
cauldron ! It has overflowed and consumed every man 
near it. Only the vile witch who caused the disaster has 
escaped unhurt. 

HADRIAN. It seems we are worsted. 

ANTIOCHUS. Yes, we can do nothing. 

HADRIAN. She must be beheaded like the other. 

ANTIOCHUS. By the sword only can she be 

HOPE. Charity, my dear, my only sister, have no 
fear of the tyrant's threats, and do not wince at the 
thought of suffering. Be strong in faith, and strive to 
follow the example of your sisters who are going before 
you to the palace of heaven. 

CHARITY. I am weary of this earth. I do not want 
to be separated from you even for a short time. 

HOPE. Have courage ! Stretch out your hands to 
the palm. We shall be separated only for a moment. 
Soon, very soon, we shall be together in heaven. 

CHARITY. Soon! Soon! 


HOPE. Be joyful, noble mother ! Do not grieve for 
me. You should laugh, not weep, to see me die for 

SAPIENTIA. Indeed I do rejoice, but my joy will 
be full only when your little sister has followed you, 
slain in the same way — and when my turn comes, mine 
last of all. 

HOPE. The blessed Trinity will give you back your 
three children. 

SAPIENTIA. Courage, my child ! The executioner 
comes towards us with drawn sword. 

HOPE. Welcome, sword ! Do Thou, O Christ, 
receive my soul driven from its bodily mansion for the 
confession of Thy Name. 

SAPIENTIA. Oh, Charity, lovely offspring of my 
womb, the one hope of my bosom, do not disappoint 
your mother who expects you to win this last fight ! 
Despise safety now, and you will attain the same glory 
which shines on your sisters, and, like them, wear the 
crown of unspotted virginity. 

CHARITY. Support me with your holy prayers, 
mother. Pray that I may be worthy to share their 

SAPIENTIA. Stand fast in the faith to the end, and 
your reward will be an everlasting holiday. 

HADRIAN. Now, little Charity. Your sisters' inso- 
lence has exhausted my patience and exasperated me. 
I want no more long speeches. I shall not waste much 


time on you. Obey my commands, and you shall enjoy 
all the good things this life has to offer. Disobey, and evil 
will fall on you. 

CHARITY. I long for the good things. I will not 
have the evil. 

HADRIAN. That pleases me, and you shall profit 
by it. I will be indulgent and set you an easy task. 

CHARITY. What is it ? 

HADRIAN. You shall say " Great is Diana." That is 
all. I will not compel you to sacrifice. 

CHARITY. I will not say it. 


CHARITY. Because I will not tell a lie. My sisters 
and I were born of the same parents, instructed in the 
same mysteries, and confirmed in the same faith. We have 
the same wish, the same understanding, the same resolu- 
tion. Therefore, I am never likely to differ from them in 

ANTIOCHUS. Oh, what an insult— to be defied by 
a mere doll ! 

CHARITY. Although I am small, my reason is big 
enough to put you to shame. 

HADRIAN. Take her away, Antiochus, and have her 
stretched on the rack and whipped. 

ANTIOCHUS. I fear that stripes will be of no use. 

HADRIAN. Then order a furnace to be heated for 
three days and three nights, and let her be cast into the 


CHARITY. A mighty man ! He cannot conquer a 
child of eight without calling in fire to help him ! 

HADRIAN. Go, Antiochus, and see that my orders 
are carried out. 

CHARITY. He may pretend to obey to satisfy your 
cruelty, but he will not be able to hurt me. Stripes will 
not wound my body, and the flames will not singe my 
hair or my garments. 

HADRIAN. We shall see. 

CHARITY. Yes, we shall see. 


HADRIAN. What is wrong, Antiochus ? Why have 
you returned, and with such a dejected air ? 

ANTIOCHUS. When you know the reason, you will 
be dejected too. 

HADRIAN. Come, what is it ? 

ANTIOCHUS. That little vixen whom you handed 
over to me to be tortured was first scourged in my 
presence, and I swear that not so much as the surface of 
her delicate skin was grazed. Then I had her cast into 
the fiery furnace which glowed scarlet with the 
tremendous heat. 

HADRIAN. Enough ! Come to the point. 

ANTIOCHUS. The flames belched forth, and five 
thousand men were burned to death. 

HADRIAN. And what happened to her ? 


ANTIOCHUS. You mean to Charity ? 

HADRIAN. Who else? 

ANTIOCHUS. She ran to and fro, playing in the 
fierce whirlwind of smoke and flame, and sang praises to 
her God. Those who watched closely said that three 
men dressed in white walked by her side. 

HADRIAN. I blush to see her again, as I have not 
been able to harm her. 

ANTIOCHUS. She must perish by the sword like 
the others. 

HADRIAN. Let us use it then, and without delay. 


ANTIOCHUS. Uncover that obstinate little neck, 
Charity, and prepare for the sword of the executioner. 

CHARITY. This time I do not wish to resist. I am 
glad to obey. 

SAPIENTIA. Now, little one, now we must give 
thanks ; now we must exult in Christ. Now I am free 
from anxiety, for I am certain of your triumph. 

CHARITY. Kiss me, mother, and commend my soul 
to Christ. 

SAPIENTIA. May He Who quickened you in my 
womb receive the spirit He breathed into you ! 

CHARITY. Glory be to Thee, O Christ, Who hast 
called me to Thyself, and honoured me with the martyr's 
crown ! 

SAPIENTIA. Farewell, beloved child, farewell ; and 


when you are united to Christ in heaven give a thought 
to the mother who gave you life even when the years 
had exhausted her strength. 


SAPIENTIA. Noble matrons, gather round me, and 
help me bury the bodies of my children. 

MATRONS. We will strew herbs and spices on their 
litde bodies, and solemnize their funeral rites with 

SAPIENTIA. Great is the generosity and wonderful 
the kindness you show to me and my dead. 

MATRONS. We would do anything to relieve your 

SAPIENTIA. I know it. 

MATRONS. What place have you chosen for their 
burial ? 

SAPIENTIA. It is three miles outside the city. I hope 
that is not too far for you ? 

MATRONS. By no means. We will follow their 
bodies to the place you have chosen. 


SAPIENTIA. This is the place. 
MATRONS. It is well chosen. The very spot to 
keep the relics of these blessed martyrs ! 


SAPIENTIA. O Earth, I commit my precious little 
flowers to thy keeping ! O Earth, cherish them in thy 
spacious bosom until they spring forth again at the resur- 
rection more glorious and fair ! O Christ, fill their souls 
with light, and give rest and peace to their bones ! 


SAPIENTIA. I thank you all from my heart for the 
comfort you have brought me since my loss. 

MATRONS. Would you like us to remain here with 
you ? 

SAPIENTIA. I thank you, no. 

MATRONS. Why not ? 

SAPIENTIA. Because your health will suffer if you 
fatigue yourselves further on my account. Have you not 
done enough in watching with me three days. Depart 
in peace. Return home happy. 

MATRONS. Will you not come with us ? 

SAPIENTIA. I cannot. 

MATRONS. What, then, is your plan ? 

SAPIENTIA. I shall stay here in the hope that my 
petition will be granted, and that what I most desire will 
come to pass. 

MATRONS. What is that petition ? What do you 
desire ? 

SAPIENTIA. This only — that when my prayer is 
ended I may die in Christ. 

MATRONS. Will you not let us stay to the end, 
then, and give you burial ? 


SAPIENTIA. As you please. 

O Adonai Emmanuel, begotten by the Divine Creator 
of all things before time began, and born in time of a 
Virgin Mother — O Thou Who in Thy dual nature 
remainest most wonderfully one Christ, the unity of 
person not being divided by the diversity of natures, nor 
yet the diversity of natures confounded in the unity of 
person — to Thee let the serene angelic choir, singing in 
sweet harmony with the spheres, raise an exultant song ! 
Let all created things praise Thee, because Thou Who 
alone with the Holy Ghost art form without matter, by 
the will of the Father and the co-operation of the Spirit 
didst deign to become man, passible like men, yet im- 
passible like God. O Thou Who didst not shrink from 
tasting death and destroyed it by Thy Resurrection that 
none who believe in Thee should perish, but know 
eternal life, on Thee I call ! I do not forget that Thou, 
perfect God yet true man, didst promise that those who 
for Thy sake renounced their earthly possessions would 
be rewarded a hundredfold and receive the gift of eternal 
life. Inspired by that promise, Thou seest that I have 
done what I could ; of my own free will, and for Thy 
sake, I have sacrificed the children I bore. Oh, in Thy 
goodness do not delay the fulfilment of Thy promise, but 
free me swiftly from the bonds of this flesh that I may see 
my children and rejoice with them. Grant me the joy 
of hearing them sing the new song as they follow Thee, 
O Lamb of the Virgin ! Let me be gladdened by their 


glory, and although I may not like them chant the 
mystical song of virginity, let me praise Thee, Who art 
not Thyself the Father, yet art of the same substance as 
the Father, with Whom and with the Holy Ghost, one 
Lord of the whole world, one King of all things upon the 
earth and in the heights above and the deeps below, Thou 
dost reign and rule for ever and ever ! 

MATRONS. O Lord, receive her soul ! Amen. 


The evidence that Roswitha's plays were intended for 
representation has already been discussed. If they were 
ever acted in her own time at Gandersheim by members 
of the community, we need not assume that the perform- 
ances were ludicrously artless. We have only to read 
contemporary descriptions of the celebrations of great 
feasts in monasteries in the so-called " dark ages," or 
to observe how strong is the element of significant and 
controlled " action " in the ceremonial of the Catholic 
Church as it exists to-day, to imagine that people accus- 
tomed to take part in these dramatic services would have 
little difficulty in giving an impressive performance of a 
religious play. Even if we discard the theory that such 
performances took place, an imaginative conception of 
what they might have been like will save us, if we desire 
to act these plays now, from adopting an exaggeratedly 
primitive method. It is our duty to do our best for them, 
neglecting no means of emphasizing their dramatic strength 
and helping their dramatic weakness. As we have no 
authority in a known " convention " to guide us, the least 
we can do is to refrain from inventing a comically crude 
one based on an arrogant condescension to past ignorance 
of what in any century is dramatically effective. 

When Callimachus was brought on to the modern stage 
a misleading impression of Roswitha's ability as a drama- 
tist was created by a calculated childishness in the inter- 
pretation. All the characters were kept in view of the 
audience whether they were concerned in a scene or not. 
and the end of each scene was marked, as the end ot 
over is marked in cricket, by a general change in position-;. 
Roswitha's piety was held up to ridicule, and her glorifica- 
tion of chastity burlesqued to the satisfaction i to 
whom jokes at the expense of old-fashioned virtues never 
fail to appeal. Drusiana's prayrr that she might die rather 
than yield to Callimachus was greeted with shouts of - 
laughter. And it was said that the mirth was natural and 


inevitable because Roswitha's manner is so naive ! Yet 
if she is treated on her merits, not as an archaic freak, 
she can be impressive enough on the stage as Edith 
Craig's production of Paphnutius proved. In this pro- 
duction the abrupt transition from scene to scene was 
. bridged by the singing of plainsong melodies, derived 
from MSS. of the ninth century. The suggestions for 
action in the lines were examined with sympathetic in- 
sight, and developed with imagination. The actors and 
actresses took their task seriously and used all their 
skill in making the characters live. The old story of the 
conversion of Thais became new, and although many 
found Roswitha's treatment of it unpalatable, none found 
it ludicrous. A comparison of the divergent impressions 
made by the Roswitha of Callimachus and the Roswitha 
of Paphnutius is a lesson in the difficulty of sifting what 
the dramatist has done from what the interpreter has done, 
a difficulty all the greater when the text of a play is not 
available. Now that Callimachus can be read it will be 
easier for those who saw its solitary performance to 
recognize that it was travestied on the stage. 

Imagination, sympathy with Roswitha's uncom- 
promising religious faith, a few sets of curtains, or an 
interchangeable scene, actors capable either by nature 
or training of extracting a pound of effect out of an ounce 
of dialogue, are the foundations on which performances 
of these plays can be built. Paphnutius, Abraham, and 
Callimachus are obviously more actable than the others, 
but I feel that a great deal might be done with Sapientia. 
Perhaps one day it will be possible to arrange a Roswitha 
" cycle " for the edification of a few enthusiasts. Mean- 
while those who share my belief that plays are not plays 
until they are acted, can amuse themselves by thinking 
over different methods of representation. 

Printed in England at THE BALLANTYNE PRESS 
Colchester. London <& Eton 




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